A flash of bright orange, and there he or she was in a clearing on the edge of the trail into the deep woods - a perfect newly emerged specimen of Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), breathing deeply in and out and drawing strength into wings as yet untried.
The air over the Two Hundred Acre Wood was filled with Monarch butterflies this past week, and they filled the blue with their exuberant flights, unfettered swooping and spiraling in the wind. There were whole clouds of monarchs in motion, and it was lovely to watch their airborne antics.
The word monarch comes to us from the Middle English monarke, thence from the Old French monarque, the Late Latin monarcha and finally the Greek monarkhos, all meaning to be a ruler - to be superior in power and presence and reign by divine right. Let there be no mistake - these magnificent creatures rule wherever they appear.
My vivid little being was a male, his gender readily identified by a black spot or androconium in the center of each hind wing - scent scales designed to attract females of the same species. Unlike the earlier generation born in our fields this summer, this handsome lad is configured for long distance flight, and it will not be long until he and his vibrant kin are airborne and bound for a sunny winter abode in Mexico.
Nights are growing cool here now, and in only a few days all our butterflies will be gone along with swallows, swifts and other migratory birds. It seems only fitting that those of us who are staying behind should wish the travelers joy on their long journey south.