This morning I watched from my porch as a female monarch butterfly hurried from leaf to leaf on our milkweed plants, arching and dipping her abdomen to lightly touch the underside of each leaf, leaving the tiniest of eggs behind her.
These single, gumdrop-shaped eggs each contain the promise of something magical and scientific all at once. Those of us who notice nature are familiar with the sight of the large-winged butterfly with its bright orange, stained-glass wings. We are accustomed to searching milkweed for the distinctively striped black, yellow, and white monarch caterpillar too, followed by its mysterious, pale-green chrysalis trimmed with a golden seal. But few of us, I think, get to see the laying of the individual egg as it emerges from the female monarch’s pointed tip and seals itself to the leaf of the sweetly scented milkweed.
As the insect flew off to the next patch to deposit more of her precious cargo, I hurried to view the egg before I lost track of where to look. Peering through the bottom of my glasses, I spotted it. So tiny! How could such a teeny-tiny speck of a thing be part of such a fascinating and vibrant life cycle? How can something the size of a head of a pin offer promise to hatch a fat, striped creature with many legs, become a gooey blob contained in a green case, emerge as a winged bit of orange, black, and white loveliness with six legs, and fly off to Mexico? It defies and defines imagination all at once. It offers magic and it offers perfect logic of the science of nature. We may take our pick or enjoy both views. We may learn the molecular mechanics, or we may allow our minds to just smile with wonder and amazement. I choose a bit of both.