One evening at dusk I watched as thousands of Monarch butterflies streamed across Gloucester Harbor and flew into nearby trees for shelter from the chill of a late summer evening. At dawn the following morning I returned to the trees with my camera and waited for several hours for the Monarchs to awaken. Luminous light and wingbeats, blossoms and butterflies—set to the stage of sea and sun and wind—I wanted more than anything to share what I was witnessing.
Experiencing that wonderment during the summer of the extraordinary migration fueled myriad questions. Where did the butterflies come from and why in such great numbers? Would they find nectar to fortify their long journey? Did this happen every year? Why this particular tree over another? How long would they stay? Why were there not more people from my community there to see this magnificent event unfolding in our own backyard?
My passion for creating this trilogy of butterfly films grew from my interest in documenting the beauty of the natural world and the connection between wild creatures and their habitats. We are all so wrapped up in our daily lives, with raising children, work, and individual pursuits that we are mostly disconnected from the fact that the habitats all around us are becoming increasingly fragmented and are largely ignored. The neglect is due to no great malice, but is pervasive because of a lack of basic knowledge and understanding of their importance. As informed individuals and, even better, as a community, we can both support existing, and create new, wildlife habitats by protecting and planting wildflowers and discontinuing the use of pesticides and herbicides.
For the past three years I have been filming the life story of the Monarch Butterfly in backyards and along the shores of Cape Ann. My original intent was to tell the story of the butterflies primarily as it relates to their northern breeding grounds here in our community. While editing the film this winter, I determined that capturing the butterfly’s story in their winter sleeping grounds as they are awakening in Mexico would only add to the film’s beauty and depth. Stay tuned for adventures from Mexico! Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly will premiere in the summer of 2015.
The Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a stunning species in our midst. We don’t need to travel the world to marvel at the wonders of nature. These marvels live in all our own backyards! My hope for this trilogy of films is that we all will gain a deeper understanding of the interconnected world we share with wildflowers and wildlife and, that by understanding the species that are in our midst, can connect that knowledge to our environment.
Butterflies have long been a symbol of transformation and their beauty has inspired poets and artists universally across time and cultures. The ephemeral grace of the butterfly not only inspires hope but also gives us courage to be active in the search for solutions. The all-too-fragile link of the butterfly to the health of the environment embodies the urgent need for positive change.
Celebrating our native species is not only a place where we all can meet, it is a focusing lens on what we can become.
Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester