essays

Chamisa and the Monarch Butterfly    

I sit at my sunny desk and watch through my window at what looks to be Monarch monarchbutterflies flitting here and there landing on the chamisa which is glowing in the sunlight, still beautifully golden—this clump not yet having reached the silvery going-to-seed stage. It’s such a lovely sight, and I saw the same phenomenon yesterday when I stopped to talk with the pinon wood salesman stationed between a bank of blossoming and gently blowing chamisa. Yes, I did buy wood as it is getting to be time for nightly fires in the kiva fireplace. It’s a treat to watch the fire while cooking and a cozy and warm atmosphere for eating dinner—celebrating the sunset and the end of another day on the high desert in New Mexico. I usually do something like dig in the garden or stack wood when I am warming up to writing something, so since I am writing something today I  also moved the geraniums, which spend the summer next to the front door, to sunny places inside. Then we had space to stack a week’s supply of firewood handy to the fireplace. 

So fall is here. The thermometer is dipping below freezing just before dawn. I slipped on just a tiny sliver of ice on the front walk this morning as I headed to my car in the morning. The apricot trees are red orange and shedding their leaves. A  kitty was huddled up there in the leaves this morning taunting two desperately agitated Welsh terriers leaping around below.  chamisaThe cottonwoods are almost fully in color the entire length of the Rio Grande, a green-gold ribbon. The Monarch butterflies are stoking up on whatever our chamisa has to offer en route to Mexico for the winter. Strange that they would find something edible about chrysothamnus nauseosus. But then milkweed isn’t so great either, and that’s where the eggs are laid, on the underside of the leaf, and that is also the caterpillar’s food -- a poisonous plant for a butterfly which also ends up poisonous to a creature that surely doesn’t try ingesting one more than once.

When they head north in March they have only a few weeks to live, and they have to get to the milkweed to lay their eggs, so the cycle can begin again. If we are lucky we humans know four generations during our life time. Time goes by so quickly. And it seems like the seasons just rush right by. I’m almost the oldest generation now. I think a lot about this as my mother winds down and my father has already passed to whatever he has passed to. Mom talks to him every night. Tonight she may tell him about the Monarch butterflies.  I imagine she will.

Lucy Noyes is co-founder of La Puerta Real Estate outside Albuquerque, New Mexico and has a million stories in her head, just waiting to get out.

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