A couple of weeks ago C's painted lady butterflies emerged from their chrysalides. The first couple came out without us noticing, so we all sat around the butterfly habitat watching and waiting for the rest. One by one they emerged, so very small and fragile looking. We would watch them gain strength and force blood into their crumpled wings until they were full and beautiful. By the end of the day, nine out of the ten butterflies were drinking nectar from the dandelions we gathered (chemical free from our own backyard).
One chrysalis did not hatch. It was the smallest one and last one to form. We held on to hope that it would emerge safely. After a day, we knew we had to let the other butterflies go and couldn't wait on the last one any longer. But then, as if it knew we were waiting on it, it emerged! We sat as a family around the habitat and planned where we could set them free. We couldn't let them go outside our home in good conscience, as the whole area we live in is rental property and gets sprayed with toxic chemicals regularly (thankfully, not our backyards, though!). We had quite a hard time thinking of a safe place for them. I honestly can't get over how much thought (and perhaps overthought) we put into finding just the right place for them. It was a bit agonizing and had me thinking of the future. I hope by the time our own little ones are ready to spread their wings and fly, we can let go a bit easier with less worry!
We did eventually find the perfect place after driving about forty five minutes away from our neighborhood, near the mountains where there were endless hills of desert wildflowers and only a few farms to be seen. We released all but one of our dear butterfly friends, the last one to emerge still didn't seem quite right. His wings were still crumpled and his legs didn't seem to work so the girls thought it best they try to nurse him to health first before we let him go.
It was such a gift to watch our butterflies fly out of their habitat and land on us. It was as if they were saying goodbye. Then they would fly from flower to flower in the endless amounts of Hooker's balsamroot and Indian Celery and drink in the sweet nectar. On a side note - I was pulling my hair out trying to identify the flowers in hope that they might be used medicinally or even edible. The one (Indian Celery) smelled so much like celery I wanted to take a big bite out of it but I knew to hold off until I could identify it. I scoured my books and the internet to no avail. Then, thankfully, I found help in the Mud Puddles to Meteors group. We positively identified both of the plants and plan to go back and harvest some. Both plants were used by the Native Americans as food and we hope to do the same...maybe even tie them into K's next Native American main lesson ;)
Sadly, the tiniest butterfly didn't make it. That evening, after releasing the butterflies, Kevin and I could see he wouldn't last much longer. We told the children to say their goodbyes and to give him lots of love. It was hard on them as they truly love all of God's creatures so. But I think saying goodbye brought them some comfort. The next morning he passed on.
Overall the experience was incredible beyond words. The children can't wait to do it again but this time with either ladybugs or praying mantises. Once our garden is up and running we will do it again.