Work in progress 

4 October, 2020            Work in progress 

Evelyn (I presume) read about Monarch Butterflies and/or talked with people about them. I’ve seen a handful, but on this blog this year, the first mention (and photograph) was five weeks ago on August 30 in a post called Suddenly beautiful. Two butterflies (but no Monarchs) a week later on a post called A squirrel told me my mother was a “miracle worker.” The next week – three weeks ago today, on September 13, I put up a blog post called Bookended with buteos. That blog post had my first photograph of a Monarch butterfly caterpillar on the milkweed Ev planted in front of my office window. More caterpillars a week later, and the week after that – a week ago today. This week – a work in progress – we have the next stage of Monarch butterfly evolution – a chrysalis! Not one but two! Or two that we’ve seen anyway; there may be more in the bush. 

When they begin to change from a caterpillar to a chrysalis, they move to a different plant – not a milkweed – and attach themselves to the bottom of a leaf. They hang upside down in a J-shape. We first noticed the one in our front yard Monday morning (9/28/2020) at 8:40:  

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Monarch butterfly caterpillar preparing to form a chrysalis

I left for work and when I got home at 12:30 we had our first chrysalis!: 

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In just a few hours it formed a chrysalis! Isn’t that amazing!?

There was still caterpillar activity on the milkweed; I took this picture Thursday at 12:45: 

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Caterpillar and a chrysalis at the same time

As an attractive flower aside, Evelyn also has these zinnia’s in my dad’s favorite color blooming in our backyard and front yard: 

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Feast your eyes. That’s in the picture dictionary next to “orange.”

I’ve been photographing it a lot but it never looks a whole lot different. But speaking of chrysalises (and not looking different), another one appeared Tuesday afternoon! That one is lower down and easier to get to. I’ve photographed that regularly as well. I took this picture today at 5:00 PM. You can see the outlines of the butterfly wings developing: 

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Chrysalis as of 5:00 PM today:

Anyway, my intention beginning this post “Work in progress” was to highlight the development of the monarch butterflies in our front yard. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” – in my opinion that means until a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis and flies away. I think the odds of that happening are not high, but then the odds of those chrysalises developing in the first place was not high, so maybe we’ll see one. It’s been fun so far! 

Ev’s planted cheerful pansies in the yard. It’s hard to use a word other than “cheerful” to describe these: 

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Pansies are only ever cheerful:

I still got a honeysuckle picture this week! This is from Monday: 

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More honeysuckle! You should SMELL it!

Have I put Dash on my blog recently? It’s impossible to take a bad picture of him. This is from Monday: 

This was Dash Monday morning, four minutes before I photographed the chrysalis:

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Caterpillars, honeysuckle, chrysalises, it all makes Dash yawn.

And speaking of “impossible to take a bad picture,” here are Mackey and Yuki and Turner at the river this morning: 

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Yuki, Mackey and Turner – as fine a pack of dogs as you’ll ever meet anywhere

Got a nice image from the river Wednesday when Mackey and Turner and I found a few free moments in our schedule: 

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Our gorgeous James River Wednesday morning:

Anyway, maybe we’ll have Monarch butterflies here next week – you never know. Like all of us, they’re still a work in progress! 

Have a terrific week. And read this brief vignette I stumbled across recently in my reading. All best, 

Jay 

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The world’s tiniest aside

So I’m reading a book called The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by a man named Benjamin Lorr. He’s not overwhelmingly jaded, but you may say relentlessly skeptical. Not in an off-putting way; it’s a wonderful book and it isn’t negative. At one point he applies for and is hired at Whole Foods and works there for two months. He’s describing his training, and how as employees they’re supposed to smile and be enthusiastic. In that paragraph he writes “Primarily we are there as forces of support, fellowship, community, and the all-important smile. That is our role. And while there is something animatronic and Stepford about the whole thing from a distance, I want to be clear, for the most part, this is nothing but a pleasure. The odd thing about being nice to people—even being forced to be nice to people—is that it is nice. This is not me, by the way, testifying from my completely dilettantish experiences, but the result of conversations with dozens of people over a wide spectrum of the retail food industry.” I emphasized the part that really moved me. The Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Mr. Lorr was clearly saying that his smile was being the source of his joy – even though he was being told to do it. That’s a powerful lesson.  

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About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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