One gloomy February morning I dialed the phone and my daughter, Melissa, picked up. I could hear squeals and laughter in the background.

"What's going on?" I asked, and was told the kids were chasing butterflies.

"In Utah, in February, in your house?" I asked again.

Here is the story:

For Christmas, Melissa and her husband, Lance, gave Caroline, our granddaughter, a painted lady butterfly kit. You send away for the butterflies that come in a plastic jar as caterpillars.

It is a fun process. After about a week, they attach to the roof of the jar and make chrysalis that hang there for another week. During that week, the lid is taken off and pinned to the inside of the butterfly cage. Soon they hatch and start flying around.

Those were the butterflies flying all over their house. It was below freezing outside, so there they would have to remain inside since their freedom would mean certain death.

The cat was super interested in them, so sometimes the butterflies had to go back into the cage. One was held too much, which injured its wing so it didn't fly any more. Oddly, it is the one still alive (their life cycle is only two-four weeks).

Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore observed of their fleeting lives, "The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."

That same evening I received an e-mail from my friend, Joan Fisher, who is serving an LDS Church mission with her husband, Byron, in Mexico City. They had just returned from the winter nesting grounds of the monarch butterfly that can be found a few hours from Mexico City.

They went on a sunny day in late February because that is the best time to watch them flutter in a blizzard of orange and black. The butterflies hibernate in pine trees high in the mountains, and when the weather warms, they fly around. Some estimates place the numbers of the butterflies at 800 million (I wonder who does the counting — whew!) but she reported they likely only saw a million or so.

The police even slow traffic in midday when they are flying and ticket people who go more than 5 MPH or if they find dead butterflies in a radiator.

There are seven sanctuaries but only three are open to the public. The Fishers, being adventuresome, went to all three. On the second trip they rode horses that took them within a 15-minute hike and the other was an hour hike that in Joan's words was "steep, crowded and dirty, but the reward was wonderful at the end."

Butterflies seem so fragile, but in reading about the monarch butterfly, I learned that some species make an annual migration between Canada and Mexico. Actually, it's not the same butterfly that makes the entire trip but it lays eggs along the journey and their great-great-grandchildren make the return trip.

Now there is a metaphor for life.

An unknown author wrote, "A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam and for a brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world but then it flies again and though we wish it could have stayed—we feel lucky to have seen it."

In April we all feel like butterflies as the weather warms and we emerge from winter's confining hold. Spread your wings and enjoy the springtime. Next winter remember you can send away for some springtime in a jar.


E-mail: sasyoung2@aol.com