Monarch Migration

24×36″ oil on linen

I painted this one from memory, which was the only way to create it this year, with a some sadness and also some hope. The sadness is that the Monarch Butterflies did not show up this winter to their wintering site in the Ellwood Eucalyptus groves. Their numbers have been shrinking in recent years as a result of drought and climate change, loss of habitat and wildfires. I can remember as recently as a decade ago laying on my back under the trees and looking in awe at the shear number of orange butterflies fluttering overhead and weighing down tree boughs in clumps the size of potato sacks.

The hope is that they are just passing through a difficult spell and will return again. In the decade or two that we’ve watched the numbers of butterflies diminish and watched the surrounding area grow with shopping areas and a housing track, we’ve also seen the concept of “climate change” turn from a fringe environmentalist concern to a mainstream observation of reality. Joni Mitchell was singing fifty years ago about “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone…” I’m hoping the winter monarch experience isn’t gone for good, but just a reality check that is part of the waking up to the fragile beauty and delicate balance of our one and only planet.