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Pat Schuler Blog: Observing nature through the eyes of the 'Butterfly Lady'

By Pat Schuler

    As we've often been told, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder."  Actually, everything we all see and experience is colored, and interpreted by, our perception of who we are, and how we relate to the world around us.
    As a child, growing up without television, computers, or video games, my great joy was to chase the colorful butterflies that fluttered about my Florida home. In addition to collecting them, I attempted to raise some from caterpillars occasionally found on native plants. Though not always successful, these attempts taught me much that stimulated my interest in the science of biology and increased my appreciation of all of God's creation. In the years since, my joy in this study has only been increased as I have learned more about the incredible complexity and design evident in these tiny creatures, and their inter-relationships with their environments.
       As I write, I am observing the Bedford phase of the great annual migration of the Monarch butterfly. Here at latitude 37.5 we should see the largest numbers of these magnificent orange and black insects during the last week of September, but most of these will be the offspring of parents that arrived here in early August.  At the current time their yellow, white, and black banded caterpillars are munching happily on my butterfly weed.  
    I've moved a number of them into an old aquarium with a screen top so that they can be better observed. Though they are only a few weeks old, several have already climbed to the top and shed their last caterpillar skin, revealing a jade green chrysalis, decorated tastefully with shiny gold beads.  In this lovely box, the most amazing change is taking place, as the caterpillar's body is being torn apart and re-assembled into a butterfly. 
    Not just any butterfly, though, as this one will follow its parents, with only instinct to show the way, to a wintering site in Mexico!  How can anyone observe such things without some sense of wonder?  I am continually awed by what I see in nature.