Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monarchs in Pismo Beach

Recently I had the great pleasure to be in the area of Pismo Beach, CA while there was a good number (some 20,000 or so!) monarch butterflies. They overwinter in a stand of eucalyptus not far from the beach.

From Monarchs

The little grove had a rather other-worldly feel to it when I walked across the street and stepped into its shadows. Initially I only saw a few butterflies perched here and there on railings, low branches and other such places.

The whole place had a feel of in credible peace that I have only really experienced one other time in a place called Pu'u honua O Honaunau (The Place of Refuge) on the Big Island of Hawai'i. That place had this series of tidepools that was full of feeding honu (Hawai'ian green sea turtles) which radiated this incredible feeling of peace. This grove had that same feeling.

As I stepped into the deeper shadows, where the sun was just beginning to penetrate I saw them. Hundreds. Thousands piled like dead leaves, making the branches droop a bit with their sheer mass.

From Monarchs

As the sun's light penetrated the branches and landed on the huge clusters of butterflies, a shutter seemed to pass through some of them. I sat starring at the incredible mass of insects in front of me with my mouth open. As my vision softened, I started to pick out the butterflies which were flying gently around between the trees. The longer I looked using peripheral vision, the more I saw. Until I could see hundreds of points of movement in the air, each a separate monarch butterfly!

The sight was incredibly peaceful, and yet also a little over whelming to the senses. I had this need to get closer, so I went and sat on a bench that was located almost directly under one of the large clusters of butterflies. What amazed me almost even more than the sight, was the sound of all those wings. The sound of so many butterfly wings was just so astounding!

It reminded me of the faint sound of a distant rain stick being turned constantly.

From Monarchs

It was interesting to see the affect of this butterfly grove on other visiting humans... More often than not, people fell into silence when they stepped into the depths of the grove and looked up.

That place had a power to it I can not really capture in words. I have no idea how long I stayed in there, because time seemed to passed differently in that grove. Eventually, I started to head out. An older gentlemen stopped me and said,"Would yah look at that one, sittin' there on that pine cone?" I sighted down his finger and was amazed to see the butterfly he was pointing to was back lit by the warm sunshine. Its wings shone like stained-glass windows, expressing the beautiful marriage of butterfly and sunlight.

From Monarchs