Andrew Lewis: A Wing and a Prayer

2 min

It was just an insect, but a magnificent, even heroic one, and Andrew Lewis thought he might protect its fragile, miraculous life.

She lay on her side on the pavement. When we found her, she had already been flapping in vain for hours, baking in the unseasonable heat.

My mother-in-law had planted milkweed in the hope of attracting Monarchs. And it had worked. The butterflies came and fluttered about for days. They lay eggs that hatched into larvae that were eaten or disappeared.

But one was different. She had found her way onto a wall where she had spun a chrysalis and had hung silent until this morning when a beautiful wet winged Monarch had emerged.

During the day, though, something had gone wrong. Her wings were not tucked properly and she could not fly.

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I considered how if given a chance, in her own short life she could accomplish more, proportionally, than I ever would. She would travel unimaginable distances, buffeted by wind and rain and smoke toward a destination she had never known.

We stopped what we were doing and picked her up and nestled her in some milkweed. She allowed us to reset her wing. She clambered weakened, her wings now erect. We left her in the garden shade.

By the evening she had died.

Saddened, I sat in the warm dark. I thought of this fragile miracle that survives less often than not. These gossamer things journey the length of the Americas. The Monarch is not a butterfly. She’s a system, comprised of wing, and plant and wind and temperature and even ourselves. And when the system works, the migration, the annual improbable pulse of life continues. And that pulse is now threatened. But like her, we still have to try, I thought. We have to stop. We have to observe. We have to listen.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.