The Monarch butterfly reserve in Michocan province in Mexico is at a very high altitude. The mountains are craggy and covered with a sort of pine tree. That’s the tree Monarchs like to mate in. Just like they like to feed on milkweed that hasn’t been sprayed with Monsanto Round-Up. They’re fussy that way. The first time I visited, I froze on top of a docile white horse who plodded me up to the viewing site. I felt I knew what statues of heros on horseback in the park on a chilly January morning felt like. Only difference was that Paloma had a disconcerting habit of slithering on loose stones as I clung to the large pommel of the solid saddle. Although I warned my friend to dress warmly when we returned earlier this year, we were rewarded with a balmy day. My Shetland wool sweater and windbreaker draped over the saddle as we were taken to a different site. Seems the indiginous people who shepherd us up and make sure we behave like civilized human beings in the face of this wonder check out the mountain every day to determine where the Monarchs are . We sat silently watching the butterflies fluttering around or settling on the branches of the pine trees. There were quite a lot of dead butterflies around us…..happy males who had combined duty and pleasure for the continuation of the species. (hmmm…butterfly orgasm….an interesting field of study )
Even though we were blessed with a mild day, a cold spell arrived shortly after our visit. My friend sent me a note to tell me that friends of hers had arrived at the site to a fall of snow. The delicate insects, of course, were affected. Then she provided me with an image I will not soon forget. She wrote that the guides, horse handlers, wardens of the mountain, took chilled butterflies into their hands ( imagine brown, hard hands, cracked and calloused) and they breathed gently on the butterflies with their warm breath and the butterflies revived. They set them in a sunny spot and , as the day wore on, the sun at high altitude melted the snow and ….some butterflies were saved by a breath.