When I was a kid, my aunt told me about a magical occurrence. For one night, monarch butterflies slept in the pine trees in her yard, crowded together on the branches and trunks. She lived there in upstate New York for 50 years and never saw them mass together again. It made me long to see such an amazing display.
Finally, last month I decided to make this childhood dream come true. I headed to monarch mecca, the wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico where butterflies gather in almost unimaginable numbers. I visited three different reserves, and though I have only been back a month and a week, it seems like a different era. I was aware of but not much concerned by what has since become a pandemic, though it was a somber time with two Mexican conservationists discovered dead shortly before my visit. They were presumed killed because of their activism in opposing illegal deforestation from logging and avocado farms.
I was enchanted by the spectacle of seeing thousands of butterflies lift off and land with every passing cloud, and the sound of wings rustling like paper from high in the trees. Though it was a dramatic display, recent reports suggest their numbers are down this year. I will do what I can to help them, adding more milkweed and nectar plants to my wildlife garden. Now whenever I see them visiting my flowers, I will imagine their marvelous migration and millions of monarchs resting in Mexico, perhaps joined by a few that drift through my garden.