I have been busy this summer studying and documenting monarch butterflies on my little monarch ranch off the back patio. It became an all-consuming pursuit as I strove to position myself in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to document the dual transformation of the monarch caterpillar: first, from caterpillar to jade-green chrysalis; and second, from chrysalis to butterfly.
It is not as easy as it sounds. Well, maybe it doesn't sound easy, but I can assure you it's tricky. The caterpillars and chrysalides have a sneaky way of doing their magic when nobody's watching: early in the morning, right at breakfast and bus time. They wait until you're completely distracted, trying to take care of your family and wham! they transform into something entirely else while you're buttering toast or answering the phone or signing a planner or digging up lunch money or racing to Athens to record a piece.
I decided that if I was ever going to catch the caterpillars at it, I'd have to have a whole lot of 'em, to increase the chances that one might decide to metamorphose when I was available to document it. And one...one of the 20 or so that I raised in a big glass vase on the kitchen table decided to cooperate. I set the camera up on a tripod against a neutral background and by gum I got it, the whole breathtaking thing, in over 600 exposures taken over about 10 hours.
National Public Radio solicited a submission to mark the first day of fall, so I wrote and recorded a piece about the whole experience. I sent hundreds of photos to their multimedia wizards and Mito Habe-Evans produced a wonderful video from them. I am grateful to her for all her work.
In the end, NPR decided not to air my commentary. But you can still find the video on the NPR website. It takes my breath away, just as sitting before a metamorphosing caterpillar always does.
Please go see how I spent my summer. I would be much obliged if you would comment and hit "Recommend." Since the commentary didn't air, sharing it on Facebook and Twitter and recommending it is one way to help it get seen by more eyes. For my part, I'll hope that it leads more people to my blog.