The walk started without any surprises. As soon as I’d put on my boots and sunglasses, and grabbed my camera bag, the dogs knew it was time. They’d burst out of the house, zipping this way and that, getting rid of the pent up energy they’d stored since our last outting, a mere 22 hours before. We cut through a pasture and headed down the treeline. Cedar, Cagney and Leika visited all the wild apple trees along the way, happily crunching any fruit that’d fallen the night before, and what the deer hadn’t eaten. Echo busied himself by peeing on every tree, blade of grass and fence post. I keep telling him that someday he’s going to die of dehydration through urination. Sadie bounced around my feet to get me to notice her and give her a treat. I did.
I followed them up past the marsh and into the pines and waited while they munched some more. The thick smell of pine resin reached me and I inhaled deeply. Though I had to dodge a couple of pine cones that some squirrel overhead was bombing me with. A catbird, robin and a red-bellied woodpecker flitted about and called in the alder behind me.
Finished with their snack, the dogs and I meandered through the eastern part of our woods. The sun’s rays worked their way through the canopies of maple, hickory, and ash.
When we got to the woods edge, where the powerline meets my property line, I was impressed with the sea of yellow flowers before me. Through force of habit, I snuck onto the meadow, keeping my eyes peeled for hawks, owls and deer. Seeing none, we ventured further.
I was surprised at the temperature difference between the woods and just a few feet into the grass. The tarry smell of creosote from the poles combined with the sweet spice scent of ferns, grasses and flowers enveloped me. It’s not an obnoxious smell, rather one that I’ve become quite familiar with and associate with this part of my walk.
The sun was right overhead, heating us up more. I felt a trickle of sweat run down my back and I wiped my brow. The dogs had all found a puddle to drink from. Yellow flowers, as far as I could see, grew before and behind me.
The air was still. A gray squirrel clucked as he sunned himself in the trees to the south. I heard the tic-tic of grasshoppers as they launched themselves in the dogs wake. But other than that, all was quiet, except maybe for a cricket or two.
As I took in the colorful landscape, I pulled my cap down against the glare. And that’s when I saw them. Monarch butterflies. Everywhere. Feeding, flitting, flying, twirling around each other. My camera couldn’t focus on the number before me. I walked among them and let them flutter around me. The most amazing thing to me was that they made no sound. Several passed just a breath from my face, and yet, I didn’t hear or detect any displacement of air from their wings. It was rather surreal.
I watched them go about their butterfly activities and suddenly realized I was probably witnessing a portion of their migration. With camera in hand, I began taking photo after photo. The dogs eventually bored of my lack of forward progress and entertained themselves in the puddles or found sniffs to sniff.
I spent two hours walking with the Monarchs that day, and was so privileged to witness such a spectacular sight.
When I entered the woods to go home, I took one last look behind me and felt like a queen.