Butterfly Cove


Butterfly Cove

The sand is white, white, white,
warm and still and fine.
The tide is high as breakers roll
and sheets of foam sweep sandy slopes.
Sanderlings on quick stilt feet track the charging surge,
stitching ocean to the shore with rhythmic probing beaks.
The wind sweeps off the breakers
up the beach and overhead,
lofting rainbow spray and ribbon kites
over pine and cypress tops.
The woods enfold a bright cool shade
of breathless distant sound.
A river of air flows overhead,
a river of warmth shines down.
Clusters of butterflies shower in light
high at the airstream edge.
The laughter of children rings through the trees
and eddies on currents of mind.

22 January 1987


2 thoughts on “Butterfly Cove

  1. “Butterfly Cove” is a poem about a real memory: going to the beach at Natural Bridges State Park, at the north end of Santa Cruz, California, with my kids at the time (a daughter and son). We had many such visits.

    The Monarch butterflies have a very elaborate migration pattern, overwintering en masse in very specific, wind-sheltered tree groves, and then spreading out into valleys and verdant areas where they can lay eggs on milkweed plants, which the caterpillars eat to thus infuse their bodies with a poison that makes them distasteful and indigestible to birds and other predators thereafter. The caterpillars spin cocoons, metamorphose, and later emerge as Monarch butterflies (still poisonous, hence the bright colors as a warning – the wonders of evolution). At Natural Bridges they overwinter from mid October to late January or mid February.

    There are two populations, an East Coast and a West Coast population. The East Coast population overwinters in Mexico (mainly). Monarch butterfly winter refuges are very specific wind-sheltered groves of trees, which they coat with their massed presence (eucalyptus trees behind the beach at Natural Bridges State Park, and nearby at the City of Pacific Grove, just north of Monterey, CA; among numerous other West Coast groves).

    Their migration is complex because some of the Monarchs will die during the migration cycle, and some will be born (from eggs laid on milkweed plants, into caterpillars, then wrapping themselves into cocoons out of which later emerge the butterflies) at points along the migration cycle/route, yet the offspring butterflies will “know” what the migration cycle/timing and route are, and follow it faithfully. So, even as they seem to flutter around aimlessly and singly as we see them in our neighborhoods and gardens (they love flower nectar, they have no mouth only a tongue to lap up flower nectar as their food) they all will congregate at their refuges “on time” for the few months of their resting periods.

    So, I would visit Natural Bridges (which have fallen into the sea except for one remaining arch today; when I first went there was another connected arch) with my young kids, play in the surf and sand, and walk through the butterfly refuge grove in back. The wind rushes up from the surf zone and sweeps over the treetops of the grove in back because it is situated in a hollow (a sort of bowl-shaped head of a wide and not-too-deep canyon) formed by the low coastal cliffs (geologically, actually an indentation of a “marine terrace”). Kite flying was a favorite pastime at Natural Bridges (by us and many others). Another attraction at Natural Bridges is the mile or so of tide-pools extending north from the sandy beach.

    These memories arose because my son got married this last week, and he took his bride to Natural Bridges as part of their honeymoon.

    My photo of a butterfly is NOT of a Monarch butterfly, it is what I had available (in digitized form) of my own photos (from my film archive). I took that shot in June 1977 on the East Coast.

    The photo (digital) of the beach is at Natural Bridges State Park in June 2015. You can see the gap where a natural arch once stood connected to the now solitary arch in the surf zone.

    Here are a few items that describe the Monarch butterflies and their amazing life cycle and migrations, in greater detail:

    Natural Bridges State Park






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