Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Henrietta the Butterfly

As some of you who follow me know, I rescued a monarch butterfly as it eclosed from its chrysalid two weeks, four days ago. She was deformed, probably from a parasite called OE. She had an abnormality on her abdomen and deformed wings.  

I've kept milkweed in my garden for years now and have had my fair share of monarch watching and even had a monarch nursery in my back yard the first year. Since then, I've let nature take her course. 

But, seeing this little butterfly drag herself across my patio after watching her chrysalid on my garden hose for 2 weeks, I felt compelled to not leave her to  the elements and predators. So, I brought her indoors and named her Henrietta.

In this photo her wings look ok, except for the left wing tip. But her lower wings were always a bit crumpled too.

I fed her fresh flowers daily, watermelon, strawberry and fresh milkweed several times a day since it wilted fast. 

She lived behind my lace curtains on my desk in my studio. Every night she climbed the curtains and slept. In the morning, she would be waiting on the windowsill, I swear, just for me. Waiting for her fresh flowers that she would jump right on to eat. 

As the days progressed, her most fragile wing broke. After watching a video on YouTube and reading different monarch websites, I did a wing replacement. Ugh, I was nervous. Had to use a different species wing that I had on hand from a dead butterfly found in my grden once. It looked pretty for a little bit and totally invigorated her. She tried to fly more. Which only made the wing break again. 

As the days progressed. She kept eating and her wings kept falling apart. But she kept eating. So as much as I felt sorry for her, watching her try to flap vigorously, she kept eating and seemed content. Well, as content as one can tell, since I don't speak butterfly! 😊

Today she ate all day, climbed the curtain. It's been over cast and started to thunder outside this window. She started to act oddly. Then her wings folded inward and she stopped moving. 

So I picked her up. And said goodbye as her little Antennae twitched. Until she stopped moving.  

 Some Might say, really? You did this for a butterfly? Well. In Mexican tradition, the Monarchs bring with them the souls of the departed during the celebration of dia de los Muertos.  In many cultures, butterflies have significant spiritual meaning. They signify transformation and change. I am currently trying to go through some personal transformation myself and truly feel she was here to help me with this. 

I painted Henrietta and started an illustrated story about her. 

I learned some things while tending this delicate life. Taking time to stop and observe Henrietta the butterfly, closer than I ever have been able to observe a monarch before.  Being reminded about how even the smallest life can and does matter.  The job these pollinators hold in our world. We are more dependent on them, than you realize. That despite her being disabled, and disfigured...she had a place of honor and value.  As I believe all living beings do. 

I'll never forget these few short weeks, tending this beautiful little broken butterfly. It's been special and she will be immortalized into a children's story I hope to have published one day. 

Fly on Henrietta.