On Meteors and Butterflies

Once we’ve passed the halfway point in the season, it becomes obvious that sunset is arriving earlier and greater darkness is setting in, which is all the more reason to celebrate the awe and wonder of the cosmic phenomenon of meteor showers. For just as it starts to get darker outside, the night lights up with falling stars, beginning with the Perseid meteor shower, which peaked over the weekend of August 11-13 and continues through the end of this month.

Up next is the Orionids (Oct 20-21), followed by the Taurids Nov 11-12), the Leonids (Nov 17-18), the Geminids (Dec 13) and the Ursids (Dec 21-22), taking us from August all the way to December.

In the midst of all this starry glory, a fascinating phenomenon happens on earth each year at this time, and specifically in Michigan, during the last two weeks of August, and the first two weeks of September: the monarch butterfly migration. Like the meteors overhead, these butterflies lift off and wing their way through our environment, posing as delicate creatures but packing the strength to migrate up to 3000 miles in just two months.

And here we stand, as human beings, between butterflies and meteors, ideally struck by the wonder of nature, and fortified by its mystery, as we emerge, like Emily Dickinson wrote, from the chrysalis:

My cocoon tightens, colors tease, 
I’m feeling for the air; 
A dim capacity for wings 
Degrades the dress I wear. 

A power of butterfly must be 
The aptitude to fly, 
Meadows of majesty concedes 
And easy sweeps of sky. 

So I must baffle at the hint 
And cipher at the sign, 
And make much blunder, if at last 
I take the clew divine.


You can catch this episode on Interlochen Public Radio, and on podcasts everywhere.