Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
Butterflies hold a mystique. “Universally” butterflies are said to symbolize metamorphosis, renewal and beauty ~ with the grandest beauty of the species being the Monarch ( auntyflo.com ) . On a spiritual level Monarch butterflies are believed to represent good luck, an omen that one is on the right path or a need for change, even communication of well-being between the living and the dead. Practically, Monarch butterflies pollinate plants critical to the health and preservation of our delicate ecosystem.
Given the value of Monarchs, Windsor resident Suzanne Urban set out to reverse a disturbing trend that she cautions, has positioned these insects as nearing endangered. Inspired by a similar, successful effort with a different type of butterfly in San Francisco, three years ago Urban decided to raise Monarchs in Windsor. Soon enough she had compatriots in fellow residents Kate Lange and Betty Jo Davis. The three women comprise a core committee for the Windsor Monarch Project, all artists they bounce ideas off each other said Urban. They have found another visionary in Jane Garibay, the director of First Town Downtown, an organization which has taken the Windsor Monarch Project under its wings – so to speak.
“There are so many stories that keep coming up,” Urban said during a May 18 interview at the First Town Downtown office.
Stories, she said, of Monarch butterflies appearing at emotional times in individual’s lives. Stories, she describes as “six degrees of pollination” ~ an expression highlighting a connectivity ~ helping the project to take flight.
“This is the most passionate group I’ve ever worked with, ” Garibay noted.
Since moving to Windsor with her husband from the southern part of Connecticut a few years back, Urban has fallen in love with the community ~ citing the warm and welcoming attitude of townspeople. That too, she added, motivated her to want to do something special to bring attention to the wonder of Windsor ~ a community of good will.
“Monarchs move from flower to flower to create common good for all,” said Urban.
Once the core committee came together, they set out to raise awareness among the town’s young people. Lange, a local realtor landscaped habitat designs and brought the project into Poquonock Elementary School. Oliver Ellsworth Elementary School has come next; Eagle Scout candidate Emile Shwayhat built cages for the schools to host the cycle of life the butterflies undergo. The project had a mobile mural, Urban designed, at the Lion’s Club Festival, and, a local Brownie troop has helped spread the word.
With First Town Downtown on board, the next step has been inviting businesses to participate. Scott Hoffman of ACE Hardware on Broad Street was first to answer the call, sponsoring a butterfly garden planted in early May outside the store. The Town of Windsor as well, has joined the journey, approving 1000 square feet along the Windsor Center River Trail for Monarch habitats, where a sculpture created for the project by local sculptor Lon Pelton can be found.
Some interesting facts and spiritual beliefs about the “magic” of Monarch butterflies from PBS and http://www.auntyflo.com/magic/Monarch-Butterfly-Migration-Life-Cycle-Facts-Spiritual-Meaning
- Milkweed is necessary for Monarchs to thrive, they lay their eggs in milkweed ~ between 300-400 eggs in 5 weeks but with a low survival rate
- Butterfly gardens need colorful, scented flowers rich in nectar to attract Monarchs
- Monarchs have four “generation” stages
- The presence of Monarchs is indicative of a healthy environment
- February & March is mating season, subsequently they migrate north from Mexico
- They return south to Central Mexico in September and October, their winter home ~ “For thousands of years people living in Mexico have believed that the butterflies are spirits of the dead, their arrival in winter coincides with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)”
- Monarchs are said to “communicate” through color and scent
- The presence of Monarchs is a sign that angels, or a guardian angel, is nearby
Butterfly garden foster families have become part of the Windsor project. Organizers continue to seek more volunteers and sponsors. For additional information and to view the entire list of sponsors thus far, go to First Town Downtown ( http://www.firsttowndowntown.org ).
Urban is an illustrator who also creates garden art and owns “smirking goddess studio”. With the Windsor Monarch Project gaining momentum, she is working to secure a grant to have a Monarch butterfly mural painted on a building near the railroad tracks in town ~ a desired location to bring high visibility for the project to folks traveling through town by train. Ultimately, her hope is to attract visitors/tourists here to see the Monarch habitats and for Windsor ~ “where the Shad always return” ~ to also become known as a destination where the Monarchs always return.
*Follow the progress of the Windsor Monarch Project on Facebook