Sunday, 17 January 2021

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

We were lucky to visit the Monarch Butterflies at the Chincua Sactuary in Tlalpajuhua, Michocan. The butterflies had travelled all the way through the US from Canada, to reach this one spot. Our local guide was passionate about showing us the facts about Monarchs - I translated best I could! The wildflowers in the pine forest provided food for the winter months (they arrive in Mexico at the beginning of November, just after the Day of the Dead festival. Local myth has it the Monarchs are the souls of the dead returning, see Daughters of the Sun for more information.) 

We found a trail of butterfly wings on the way to the colony, our guide told us was left over from the predator birds eating only the body and head. He pointed out the seasonal flower food for the Monarchs, and how when they collect it, the pollen sticks to their bodies for food later on when it is too cold. We arrived at the colony spot and saw millions of them all clumped together, like a hanging brown mass from the pine trees! It was cloudy so this meant they were huddling together (a bit like penguins) - to keep warm and confuse predators.

Our guide was also very keen to share knowledge about medicinal plants, what they are used for in his culture. My favourite was the tree mushroom, which his 'Abuelita' collects, and cooks up to cure lower back pain. He would take a pine seed and crush it to show us the scent, and break leaves or flowers to give us a smell of the powerful aromas! It was a multi-sensory experience. The walk was a journey of the senses and ties into my thinking of the 'slow gaze' - in a bodily, experiential way, to engage with nature in a way that brings together different ways of 'being with'.