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Monday, June 4, 2018

Meeting the Monarch Caterpillar

Yesterday was a red letter day. I finally saw a monarch caterpillar with my very own eyes. My iPhone summarized the day in a short video.

For the majority of my YouTube following, it is the cozy moments with Bow that matter the most. Grooming together out in the sun is certainly a pleasant experience.

But because that is an everyday occurrence for me, I suppose I underplay it, whereas it is those rare glimpses of a butterfly or a moth that have me all a-flutter. For instance, on June 2nd, I spotted what seemed like a leaf, but it was moving in a way that made it seem alive

 I drew closer, and it turned out to be a very damaged polyphemus moth.

It was so fragile, so damaged and yet so beautiful!

So I posted the video on YouTube, because I thought it was exciting and poignant and rare, and I got eight views.  Eight views! But my last grooming video got over a thousand views. And for a moment I kind of felt as if my viewers were shallow. But then I realized: I'm lucky to have a personal relationship with Bow, and so I take it for granted. And there are so many people out there who are starving for contact with nonhuman apes. So it makes sense that for them Bow grooming me is the rare and wonderful thing. And I do value the contact with Bow, too. It's just that I am also amazed by the wildlife all around me. That's another gift that Project Bow has given me. I never saw so many butterflies until I was trapped here, with no hope of escape, just the way Bow is. It's when you can't go anywhere else that the true story all around you starts to unfold. 

And then there is the saga of the milkweed plants and the monarch butterflies. Last year I watched one milkweed plant as it went from closed buds to full bloom, and the next day it was gone. It took so very long to bloom, but I never saw a butterfly on it. Not once! And it was probably a deer that ate it. 

This year, everything has happened much faster. The first floret opened on June 2nd, and I almost did not notice it, because it was hidden under a leaf.

That evening there was a violent rainstorm. I went out the next morning to look at the purple milkweed, not knowing what I would find. And there it was!

They're supposed to be eating the leaves, not the flowers. But I would recognize it anywhere, even though I had never seen one in person before. It was a monarch caterpillar! A creature out of mythic past -- from a book I had read in first grade, when my reading ability exceeded my grasp of English!

Earlier this year I rediscovered the book, The Travels of Monarch X, and I read it to Bow.

Bow wasn't very interested, but that's okay, because when I first read that book, I wasn't very interested, either.  I wanted to grow up to be a giant gorilla, and I didn't care much about invertebrates. The story of how I learned English by total immersion in first grade is fictionalized in my children's book, Ping and the Snirkelly People. It is coming out at the end of the month on Audible, read by Evelyn Adams.

Order it now

Anyway, I was so excited yesterday to see my first monarch caterpillar that I took many photos of it.

But by the time I got back to the purple milkweed patch that afternoon, the caterpillar was long gone. I did see a beautiful eastern tailed-blue on the half open blossoms of another of the purple milkweed plants.

I incorporated both the butterfly and the caterpillar in a video that featured plenty of grooming, because you have to give the people what they want.

It's not that I don't enjoy being groomed, mind you. It always feels nice.

It's just that there are also other pleasures in life. And I enjoy sharing those as well.


  1. So many thoughts rush through my head. I wonder if maybe you could write a short ebook about a day in the life with Bow. I know you are always busy with many projects, but I think such a book might be a seller since people do like your groom videos. I think the moth that looks like a leaf was most intriguing.

    1. Thans, Julia. I think the book about a day in the life with Bow is a good idea, but it might have to wait a while. Right now I want to promote When Sword Met Bow, because it is coming out on Audible soon, as is Ping & the Snirkelly People. Unfortunately, the people most motivated to write new reviews of When Sword Met Bow are animal rights activists who have not read the book. It is about new babies and how older children react to having a new sibling, and not about politics of animal ownership.

  2. Bow seems so gentle when he's grooming you. Hey, I was one of the 8 that watched your polyphemus moth! I think their markings are so beautiful and unique. I always enjoy all your nature videos, Aya. Now, if Bow would develop head massaging skills, he might be able to market that and earn his own keep.
    I'm happy you have learned to enjoy all the wildlife around you too. When I'm out exploring, I feel like I have dropped into a whole different, beautiful, secretive universe. I'm copying this post to my clipboard before posting, because I tried to comment 3x on your last post and it kept disappearing!

    1. Hi, Kathy. So glad you enjoyed the polyphemus moth video! Bow would be an excellent groomer for humans, but only once he got to know them. If I did start such a business for Bow, though, I bet the State would try to regulate ad license it. ;) Yes, it is calm and serene and enthralling exploring the natural world. Sometimes I get so immersed in it, I forget everything else.

      Sorry about the issues with comments. This one here was waiting for me to moderate, but I never received the usual email notice.