I was surprised and amazed when I discovered two caterpillars on the carrot tops right there in my vegetable garden. I had watched my neighbor mow and mow and mow his field - all summer long, and it left me sad and annoyed because he was cutting down all the milkweed and the Monarch butterflies know to come to this field. They are there every year. Not this year. And yet, there they were - two caterpillars in my vegetable garden.
My mind went to something I read in Wallace Stegner's book, Crossing to Safety. Here it is, Page 237: "Air moving uphill from the woods and lake stirred the seeding flower-heads of Delphinium that rose above the wall. A Monarch butterfly caught in the draft was lifted twenty feet over our heads. I saw Sid look away from Charity's unsteadily insistent glance to follow the Monarch's movement. Perhaps he was fantasizing, as I was, that there went part of what had once been the mortal substance of Aunt Emily or George Barnwell or Uncle Dwight, absorbed by the root of a beech tree in the village cemetery, incorporated into a beechnut, eaten by a squirrel, dropped as a pellet in a meadow, converted into a milkweed stalk, nibbled and taken in by this butterfly, destined to be carried south on a long, unlikely, interrupted migration, to be picked off by a flycatcher, brought back north in the spring as other flesh, laid in an egg, eaten by a robbing jay and laid as another kind of egg, blown out of a tree in a windstorm, soaked up by the earth, extruded as grass, eaten by a freshening heifer, some of it foreordained to be drunk, as Charity said, by its own descendants with their breakfasts, some of it deposited in cowpads, to melt into the earth yet again, and thrust upward again, immortal, in another milkweed stalk preparing itself to feed more Monarch butterflies.
Fragile as tissue, the butterfly wavered off and away."
A few days later, I went into the garden to check on these caterpillars. They were gone. A tasty snack for a bird? Maybe. One thing I do know. They are back in the cycle, and it is good.