If you live in southern California, you’ve probably noticed something amazing over the past several days. We are currently being treated to the spectacle of millions of Painted Lady butterflies on their annual migration up from the deserts of Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. About the size of a half-dollar, Painted Ladies look like miniature versions of Monarch butterflies with their orange, black, and white coloration. This winter’s inordinate amount of rainfall has led to particularly abundant vegetation and, as a result, a deluge of butterflies.
I am absolutely in awe at the fact that all of these creatures — every last multi-million-and-one of them — is bred to know where they are going and how to get there. No stopping for directions, no asking Siri, no GPS, not even a road map. (Remember when road maps were free at gas stations? Sorry, I digress.)
In watching the incredible flutter-by, I can’t help but imagine a conversation between a Painted Lady couple traveling their route. To wit:
A sunny morning in LA
He: Are you ready yet, honey? Spring isn’t going to last forever.
She: I’m here, I’m here, keep your wings on.
He: Funny. Here comes a tailwind — let’s put the pedal to the flutter.
She: Look, there’s Sid and Gwen, Marty and Linda, and the whole rest of the swarm.
He: Yup. Traffic’s building up. Air space over the 101 and the 5 is getting tight. Lucky for us, I know a shortcut.
She: But everyone’s going this way.
He: And if everyone were flying off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that too?
She: I don’t even know what the Brooklyn Bridge is, but we’ve got to stay with the group.
She: I don’t know why, I just know it’s the way we’ve been bred.
He: Come on, let’s blow this popsicle stand.
She: Popsicle stand? What?
A while later, after taking the so-called shortcut
She: We’re lost, aren’t we?
He: Uh … nope.
She: Well, where are we?
He: Uh … we’re going in the right direction.
She: Maybe we should stop and ask for directions.
He: I don’t need no stinking directions.
She: Why do you always have to be so stubborn about asking for directions?
He: I like to figure things out for myself.
She: And I like to arrive on time.
He: No problem. We’ll be flitting our wings in Portland before they even cross the state line. We’ll be circling the Space Needle before they even —
He: Before they even Vegas?
She: No, genius. Las Vegas. We just passed the sign that says Welcome to Las Vegas. I told you we were going the wrong way.
He: No, no, I was planning this all along.
She: I’m not speaking to you.
He: (pivots) Aw, that’s too bad. Because I just figured …
He: Why don’t we check out that Chapel of Love?
She: You mean –?
He: Sure, baby. We’ll get hitched and then hitch a ride on the bumper of a limo headed north. We’ll make up the time and meet the others right on schedule. Just like I planned.
She: You did, did you?
He: Cross my wings and hope to fly.
She: (forgiving him) Maybe we can even catch a show or two?
He: Just watch out for the neon lights — moth to the flame and all that. I don’t want you to singe your pretty painted wings.
She: Aw, you smooth flutterer, you.
Butterfly me to the moon.
ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman