Monarchs and Mysteries

A monarch butterfly on a flower

I am frequently astonished by monarch butterflies. Delicate beyond belief, they fly thousands of miles each year from all parts of the continent to settle in the forests of South America. To my delight, their migratory route takes them along a bridge near my home.

A few days ago, I was driving on this bridge during their annual display of fragility and strength. As my car whipped by at over sixty miles per hour, the tiny creatures were tossed haphazardly by the winds, yet I knew there was a continual southward purpose to their struggle.

Much as I admired these fragile butterflies, I could not avoid hitting several of them. While orange wings smashed into my windshield, I remembered a chilling science fiction story I had read as a child. A man of the near future travels back in time to the age of the dinosaurs to sightsee in that era. Despite the tour guide’s warnings, he leaves the path in his excitement and while in the underbrush steps on and kills one tiny, fragile butterfly. When he returns to his own time, the world is horribly different: people are much crueler and an international fascist government now rules. The death of one butterfly in the distant past has changed all of world history.

As I travel the many miles of the bridge during the annual monarch butterfly migration, I wonder if I am wreaking any changes in the world to come. What effect do my words and deeds—both on the bridge and off—make in the environment and in the human world? Surely they do make a difference. Our kindness affects lives we will never see. Our cruelty casts ripples that may drown strangers.

Whether smashing butterflies or helping a friend, our actions will echo through history. We will not always know the ramifications of our deeds, but they are there. We are surely connected, one to another, and each of us to the greater world of monarchs and mystery.