In the beginning was the butterfly; to be precise, the Monarch Butterfly.

At the close of the twentieth century my sister, Judi asked if I would develop a series of drawings to compliment the text of her Magical Migration Monarchs curriculum and work book. She created the book to guide both educators and students in the conservation of the dwindling populations of Monarch Butterflies.

I began studying the lifecycle of the Monarch by first finding a tiny Monarch egg on the leaf of a host milkweed plant. Judi had constructed a small, netted enclosure for the Monarch to venture through its full life cycle in becoming a butterfly. I placed my tiny white egg and several fresh milkweed leaves in the enclosure. I watched and waited.

As I waited I did several drawings of the enclosure, the egg and the milkweed leaves. I found other milkweed variations and did drawings of their unique profiles. Two days after I’d set up my Monarch habitat a very welcomed guest appeared dressed in pale yellow and black and seemingly very hungry. I took several photographs and did some preliminary drawings from them. By day four I needed to find fresh milkweed leaves and my tiny guest was now bold black, yellow and white; also more ravenous then ever.

One late morning I looked for my bold caterpillar and rather than munching on milkweed, it was wriggling while hanging by a thread from one of the enclosure supports. The first stage of metamorphosis was occurring before my eyes. As I watched the bright black, yellow and white body split and a completely new creature emerged. At first a pale green, statuesque form appeared somewhat in the shape of an inverted pitcher. The pale green darkened to jade and tiny gold beads encircled the lower part. Its only movement was a slight quiver caused by a breeze blowing from my ceiling fan. I knew magic was taking place unseen in that chrysalis and all I could do was await its outcome.

I went back to my drawings and completed several pen and ink renderings of milkweed, Monarch caterpillars, mature male and female Monarchs and maps depiction the routes migrating Monarchs take during their yearly life cycle. I watched patiently every day to be present when the chrysalis would open and deliver its changed occupant to the world.

I missed it….Early (very early) on a Tuesday morning my new guest emerged and greeted me in all her Monarch glory as I entered my studio, at 10 AM. She was ready to get on her way and had had no time to await my arrival. I called my sister, “What do I do now?” “ I’ll be right over and we’ll do a release, but before we do I want you to take as many photographs as you can” I had already begun to do so….all I could think of was


Judi arrived and we took the enclosure out to the bright sunshine of a July morning. Miss Monarch was ready; Judi lifted the mesh of the enclosure and gently clasped Miss Monarchs’ folded wings…..” you do the release” she beckoned me, and I placed my fingers next to where her fingers were holding Miss Monarch. I could feel the quiver of energy in her tiny body….Judy coached, “ Now raise your hand over your head and do the release, she’ll do the rest”. She rose like a blown leaf and slowly vanished into the surrounding foliage.

I completed my series for the Magical Migrating Monarchs program, but couldn’t get the images of butterflies out of my mind. I felt that I had just scratched the surface of something very profound….it was still not clear what at that time.

Two years later I agreed to accompany Judi on a tour of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve at El Rosario, Mexico…..Judi had made all the arrangements ….the answer to my questioning thoughts about “something profound” were tantalizingly near and the trip seemed to lead the way.

We arrived in Mexico City and were driven to the town of Via De Bravo at the foothills of the Sierra Mountains…..El Rosario was a several hour drive from our quarters and the very next day we boarded a van with six other Monarch watchers to make the journey,

El Rosario Reserve….a dusty, dry parking lot with a path leading up through kiosks selling all types of Monarch memorabilia: T-shirts, Jackets, umbrellas, mounted Monarchs in a black frame, etc. We passed them by and climbed the narrow path through a golden blossoming meadow and Monarchs. At first hundreds and then thousands of Monarchs, in the air on the flowers on the ground, everywhere. The darkened forest of OYAMEL trees lay ahead; this was the real nesting ground for the over-wintering Monarchs.

I was not prepared for the overwhelming number of butterflies. The tree trunks were festooned with orange and black wings. Where bark should have been visible there were only butterfly wings. The limbs above were covered in Monarchs and several of the branches had broken under their weight. I stopped and soon was covered with Monarchs; they alighted everywhere there was a perch and my nose, ears and shoulders were no exception. I stood as still as I could but even the slight motion of my breathing caused them concern and there was a constant coming and going of Monarchs….finally, I clapped my hands and they all rose to find a more reliable perch.

Judi was now on her knees, camera at the ready photographing the ground covering of Monarchs….I walked on to find a small stream with thousands of butterflies fluttering and drinking on its banks. The sunlight tinged orange as its’ rays passed through the air-borne wings of Monarchs, it was then that I realized what the profound secrete that had evaded me was. What I was seeing was a multitude of symmetries expressed in this natural abundance of Monarchs. Each displayed its bilateral pattern as close to perfect duplication as possible. And each individuals’ wing pattern could be placed in conjunction with every other individuals’ pattern to form a grander visual reality.

Seventeen years have passed since that experience and I have at last found the formula in order to give life to my realization. With the advent of powerful computer programs, digital photography, and an extensive library of natural images I am now creating a visual representation of the myriad interrelated patterns of Nature’s symmetries. The insect world is a bilateral heaven, frogs and other amphibians express their colorful protective patters symmetrically, flowers, ferns, cacti, grasses, tree leaves and fungi, reptiles, birds, fish….the list goes on forever in terms of unique expressions of symmetrical patterning. Our own feelings of health and beauty have to do with balance and symmetry. Mother Nature has shown us her way to the infinity of perfection in every one of her creations.