Monarch Butterflies : Wonder Takes Flight

Last, but certainly not least, Monarch Butterflies.

monarch butterflies take flight

wonder takes flight

footsteps hit the ground
gravity holds me tethered
walking sticks and gear-filled backpack
firmly earthbound

surrounded by people
joined together
on the same journey
searching for wonder

faster than focus can follow
rising from trees
warmed by the sunlight
wonder takes flight

closing my eyes
thankful to be here
listening…breathing in and out
the magic of this moment

i stretch my wings
embrace the wonder
and dance with butterflies

We arrived in Angangueo, ate an amazing lunch (bottomless guacamole!!), and set our sights on El Rosario. After riding up the steep and narrow roads in the back of pick-up trucks with benches, we were greeted by enthusiastic children selling baskets woven from the local pine trees. The handcrafts were beautiful and I bought several a few days later, but now it was time find monarch butterflies. Horses were provided by the locals to carry us up the mountain. Each horse had a person to lead the way. Thank goodness! It’s been decades years since I’ve ridden.

Riding horses at El Rosario

The men have such great relationships with their animals. I’d hear kissing noises and my horse would speed up. It made me smile as I hung on tight.

Then we were off the horses and on the trail. Fernando told us not to be distracted by the occasional butterflies here and there, but it was hard not to be. Butterflies on the ground were drinking from a small trickle of water.

keep going…

click, click…

Monarch Butterfly

Not long after, we arrived at the viewing spot and could see incredibly large clusters of butterflies hanging on the branches of oyamel fir trees. There were also many of them flying around. How they don’t run into each other I’ll never know. This picture isn’t one of the clusters. It’s just a small gathering of butterflies. How many did we see? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were millions or at least hundreds of thousands.

monarch butterflies

Now, here are just a few of the clusters.

Monarch Butterfly Clusters

This isn’t really the best picture, but it gives an idea about the density of the clusters. How many butterflies are there in each one? Who knows. And…these clusters were just at the edge of the protected area. This goes on for acres.

Monarch Butterflies

Nature is incredible. This generation of monarch butterflies left Canada and the Great Lakes area of the United States, flying 3,000 miles to winter in Mexico. Considering they live for about six months, four times the average life span of Monarchs and have never been here is amazing. It was 4-5 generations ago when the last butterflies graced these mountains.

Monarch Butterflies

It was a magical moment that we repeated several times over the next few days. We visited the Chincua Sanctuary the next day and returned to El Rosario for our final experience. After taking photos, fellow travelers and I would sit quietly and these beautiful creatures would land on us. Sometimes when it was really quiet, we could hear the fluttering of their wings.

Somehow, I can’t think of them as bugs. They are just too beautiful.

And..who doesn’t want to fly?

and transform?

and add color to the world?

Days spent in a beautiful place with wonderful people… Life is good.

Hiking through the forest

And even time for a sundowner overlooking Angangueo. Wine always tastes better with a view.

Sunset over Angangueo

It’s hard to really understand being in the midst of so many active butterflies unless you are there. The video and slideshow is in progress and coming soon.


Call of Deadvlei Namibia

Single grains of sand
blowing, building,
Nature’s monuments that reach to the sky

Trees outlasting lifetimes
dead, dry
Strokes of dark brown against a vibrant background of color

Travelers climbing
stepping, sinking,
Trying to conquer what nature has created

Languages of the world
appreciating, celebrating
Still failing to capture indescribable beauty

Footprints in the sand
filling, erasing
All evidence we were here

Memories of moments
breathing, thinking
Surrounded by monuments built of single grains of sand.

This was one of the reasons I came to Namibia, to stand in the pan of Deadvlei and see the beauty of the dunes and the trees. 

Deadvlei Namibia

We began by climbing a portion of Big Daddy, one of the largest dunes in the area.


While I only climbed a short way, it was still an amazing experience. I climbed to the section just above the travelers in the below photo.


Looking down to the right, it seemed as though the side was straight down.

Toni, our guide, was with me and asked if I was ready to head down. 

“You mean straight down?”

I thought maybe I’d be walking back the way I came.

“Yes, put your camera inside your shirt and grab my hand.”


I was very hesitant, but trusted Toni. So I grabbed her hand, leaned back and took my first step. My foot slid down and I took another step. It was a hot day but the sand was delightfully cool as my feet sunk down. Then finally I sat down and slid the rest of the way. It was so much fun. I laughed the whole way.

Then we walked over a small hill, and there it was.


It’s hard to describe what a beautiful place it is. The pan is made up of cream colored dried clay. The trees died after the dunes blocked the water source hundreds of years ago. They are estimated to be 900+ years old.

Deadvlei Namibia

Here is a photo of people walking across the pan and people coming down the side of Big Daddy. The mirage created by the heat reflecting off the sand is amazing. Yes…this captures some of the vastness of the area.

I had time to sit down beside one of the trees and to take in the beauty and spirit of this unique place on Earth. Seeing, listening, feeling…I will never forget.

There are some grasses and short bushes that have sprung up in a few places- survivors in an area where most things cannot live. It was hot, but the slight breeze helped cool me down a bit.BlogDeadvlei11

Because it is such a large space, it’s easy to find solitude. It was a spiritual experience that touched my heart.


Once again, the shadows and textures helped set the stage.


Deadvlei Namibia called and I’m so glad I answered.

In the Midst of Manmade Magic


Hidden treasures in the midst of man made magic
Yellow butterflies lead the way
In solitude I walk between
Fields of palmettos, dotted with occasional pines

A path, leading into the forest of trees
Anticipation, seeking something new
Alone with myself
Taking it all in, seeing, watching

Cyprus trees with skirts of roots sink down into the water
Securing them to reflections of blue sky
And of puffy white clouds and dancing grasses of green and yellow
Upside down world…silence punctuated with the occasional buzz of insects

Nature taking it’s course in the midst of man made magic
Drinking in moist warm air as smooth as a fine wine
Time to think and observe
Eagerly discovering, exploring

A walk in a new place
No people, no wildlife, just me 
Breathing in and out moving on the path
Until the end, the perfect place to sit

Nature Conservancy
Rocking back and forth in a chair
Cool breeze weeps away the heat of the midday journey
Happy to discover another world
In the midst of man made magic

My last day in Orlando, I decided to get off the beaten path. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love castles, princes and life sized cartoon characters and will visit them another time. Instead, at the suggestion of a Florida friend, I visited the Nature Conservatory’s Disney Wildlife Preserve. My favorite part was Lake Russell and the cyprus trees that rise up out of the water. The path is a little over 2 miles long and a wonderful option if you are interested in a break from the parks. It’s also free unless you choose to make a donation.

I suggest going early in the day so you have an opportunity to see the wildlife. Take water and good walking shoes. The path is clear, level and easy to follow. It was a great choice for me since it was a new slice of nature I’d never seen before.

Happy travels!

Rhythm of the Wind


Another group of travelers on the tundra lodge on our same trip contributed to this poem, with our guide, Annie, providing the glue to tie it all together. Beautiful!


The Rhythm of the wind

Wind jostles me insignificant

If I was lighter I’d blow away

Like the fox earlier today.

You can see the wind.

If I was lighter I’d blow away

Let this feeling of desolation take me

You can see the wind

Pierce the emptiness.

Let this feeling of desolation take me

Down the tracks

Pierce the emptiness

A tourist, as in one that takes a journey.

Down the tracks

Where the plants, trees, rocks endure

A tourist, as in one that takes a journey

Invigorated and alive.

Where the plants, trees, rocks endure

The whirling dervish spins

Invigorated and alive

Ghost like wind you can actually see.

The whirling dervish spins

And I see distance in a new way in this

Ghost like wind you can actually see.

We are the visitors here.

I see distance in a new way

Cleansing, sterile maybe

We are the visitors here,

As in one who has made a journey.

Tundra Symphony


One of my posts from last week talked about a session we had with our guide, Annie, that was focused on seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling the the tundra and environment around us. Seven or eight people participated, so this came from a group effort, with lots of wonderful word play on Annie’s part. Here it is:

Tundra Symphony

 Bass tenor with an occasional gust of soprano

Symphony in the wind

Metal tin lodge becomes percussion

Each movement different


Symphony in the wind

Waves play while water waits

Each movement different

How fragile the human body is within this sphere.


Waves play while water waits

Wind the all powerful thing!

How fragile we are in this world of constant motion.

I can’t hear, I can’t smell, but I feel the cold.


Is wind the all powerful thing or is

There a king of this tundra?

I can’t hear, I can’t smell, I feel the cold and

Learn the art of patience


There is a king of this tundra

Majestic being

Teaches me the art of patience

I hear no cell phones and see a landscape fairly free of us


Ahh, Majestic being that

Humans live here is almost beyond comprehension!

So –I am left with this.

Our symphony –stillness and constant motion.


Bass tenor with an occasional gust of soprano

 In the wind

Metal tin lodge becomes percussion

Each movement different




The Children of God

God walks this world on the pads of our feet,
He hears the cries
and sees the tears of His children
through our ears and eyes.

And He touches His children with our hands…
loving, cradling, strengthening.
He speaks the hope and encouragement of His love
through our mouths.

God is in us
and works through us.
Open your arms,
cradle, encourage and love…
The Children of God.

Jennifer Steck©1996