I sent the kids off to school Tuesday with the thought that it would probably be too cool and overcast for any monarchs to hatch – but when I went to check, one of the two chrysalises under the front porch, nestled in a sun trap of stone and brick, had become quite dark, butterfly colors showing through, the sign that it was nearly there.
Staying and waiting and watching for it to emerge would suit me fine: I’d sit down on the retaining wall beside the porch foundation where the chrysalises are hanging, looking up occasionally from my knitting; it’s a mystery how long I’d have to be there, but that would be the surest bet I would be there when something happens. Or even if I were out in the garden, working nearby, I could be popping over to check. I’m indoors for the morning, though, paying a bit of overdue attention to inside work after so much time outdoors getting the garden ready for last Saturday. But with the front window wide open and the screen slid up, if I lean out all the way, I can just see what’s going on under the porch.
Waiting is hard. No fresh insight there, of course. Back when I was doing PhD oral exams, my major author was an anonymous 14th century alliterative poet (a style which ended up being the Betamax to rhyme’s VHS) most known for (or at least most anthologized for) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. There are at least three other poems attributed to the same author, including the one whose opening line still hangs around in my head: “Patience is a point, though it displease oft” (“point” = “virtue”; the original text is here). It rattles around with Tom Petty's and Mr. Roger’s takes on waiting, especially at times like Monday afternoon, when Eleven was back at her ballet studio for the first time this fall. After 20 minutes, Six looked ready to gnaw off a limb if that would have let him escape from the confines of the waiting room. We’ll get more practice, waiting. (I had the sock along.)
In the end, I just missed seeing the monarch break out of its chrysalis, but only by a little bit: its wings were still wet and crumpled when I took the first picture, around 1:30 Tuesday afternoon.
By 5:00 his wings were flight-worthy enough to flutter away from the spot where he’d been since Friday a week ago; by 6:30 he was gone, joined up (I hope) with the other half-dozen monarch butterflies that have been hanging around the garden the past few days.
We’ll start the watch over again in the morning, for his former neighbor.