Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Time's river flows steadily, eternally onward, though its constant movement may not always be apparent. Especially not this year when winter became spring too early, then quickly turned into a seemingly endless summer of drought and blazing heat. Yet even then, as sweltering day turned into stifling night and back, again and again and again, week after week, our spinning earth continued to follow its ancient prescribed path around the sun.
And regardless of how our perception might have become temporarily befuddled by local weather patterns, as our planet hurtled along through the vast darkness of space, that marvelous 23.4 degrees of axial tilt—the astronomical geometry which gives us our seasons—remained in effect throughout. And this simple fact will, as always, eventually take its toll.
Of course the fluttering monarch butterfly in the overgrown field knows nothing of all this—or maybe it does, just not in a way we're capable of comprehending. Yet something within the makeup of this familiar orange-and-black insect understands. Something our human conceit, for all our technical cleverness, not only doesn't grasp, but can't even fathom.
Perhaps the locus of this enigma, whatever it may be, is buried deep within the atoms of the helix chains of its DNA, a mysterious property yet undiscovered in the nucleic acid, or an odd polymeric molecule. Or maybe not; maybe the answer lies elsewhere.
But something somewhere stirs within this little butterfly. A restlessness, an unease, which soon becomes a longing to began a journey which will carry it on fragile wings thousands of miles from its Ohio summer home—all the way to the high mountain of central Mexico. A distant place, unknown by the individual butterfly we find perched on a blooming teasel, but where the year before, its parents—or perhaps it grandparents—overwintered in the shelter of cool fir forests.
How can such a thing be possible? How does the monarch know? How do you explain a miracle? Then again, maybe you don't. But time flows, the seasons turn, summer begins drawing to a close—and soon the monarchs in the field will feel that inexplicable tug and commence their wondrous southwestward odyssey.
Soon…very, very soon.