I was trimming a rose bush late Friday afternoon, a thing I do in August because the rose disease begins working its way through the leaves, gradually baring the branches. I take off the discolored infected, brown-spotted leaves, as many as I can stand (you always get thorn-pricked doing this), then start clipping the bared branches to hide the ravages. Then I feed the plants rose food dissolved in water, something I meant to do months ago. Basically, I say to the roses, start flower production all over. In the past, I am happy to say, they have always complied.
Monarch butterflies are constantly starting over as well. But we have been worrying about them this year. They lay eggs on milkweed; perhaps, experts speculate, milkweed is losing ground to development. Perhaps some interruption in their food sources has taken place between summer time up north and winters spent in Mexico, Central America, Texas and who knows where else.
Still, I have been picturing in my mind's eye the familiar delicate winged presence of the monarch somewhere among the butterfly bushes (so named, frankly enough, for their service) in the garden in front of the house where we saw them for several weeks last August. When I looked up from my rose bush trimming and saw one flying around the taller butterfly bushes, a few feet to my right and about two feet over my head, a part of my heart leapt up as well.
I called Larry, the next door neighbor over, to take a look. I called Anne out of the house and when she reached the porch the monarch settled down on one of the blooms on the lower bush on the left side of the walk, where they had made themselves particularly at home last summer. I’d take a picture I told Larry, but we’ve misplaced our camera. A few minutes later he came back with his smart phone to take a photo, Anne popped out with hers too but left us with frequent reminders that she wasn’t sure how to get the pics “off” the camera.
Larry, who was the parent home watching his daughter that afternoon, as he frequently is, called her over (let's call her Em) to show her the butterfly, who was still hanging onto a blossom that extended from the bush out onto the sidewalk. Then he put Em into the picture.
If there is anything you can do to improve a picture of a monarch butterfly resting on your butterfly bush, it is putting a little girl into the frame.
Larry emailed me the result, for which I am grateful.
A few minutes later, still trimming roses, I drew my hedge clipper back from the plant, out of the thorny jungle of half-trimmed branches, and find myself staring at a praying mantis perched on the flat of the blades. I carry my insect passenger carefully away from the front garden, where the butterflies hang, to the first really dense bush in the back, a tall phlox, and deposit him there.
No photo yet of this year's praying mantis. Like the monarchs, we see them every year. Never mind, he’ll be back. I hope to say the same thing about our camera.