Monarch Butterfly Grove & Me   

by Pilar Montes  9/27/22

What a magnificent sight

   thousands of monarch butterflies flying, mating, gathering in large clusters.

Awestruck by such beauty.

My first encounter was in the mid-1980s.

What an amazing hidden gem, never could have imagined such a wonder.

When it was cold and windy, I worried about the butterflies.

But learned they are a mighty insect, whose migration path took them 2,500- miles to Mexico and back.

And can travel as much as 100 miles a day.

We are so blessed by their presence during their overwinter visit to the Goleta Ellwood Mesa from October thru February.

As many as 100,000 butterflies.

I would go back to see them for many years.

Once, while walking thru the grove,

   my then husband chose to tell me he wanted a divorce.

Did he want to ruin this place for me, that he knew I cherished?

I did not go back for many years.

But in the late 1990’s, I returned in triumph.

Remarried with my new husband and my baby twins.

Back to this wondrous place.

In the early 2000s a butterfly preserve group saw the importance of this place and worked to provide accessible routes to the Monarch habitat.

Though my mother was older and had mobility issues, I was now able to take her.

To share the glory of these butterflies, to the woman who taught me the appreciation of nature.

She reveled in its beauty.

I did not go that often, but knew the butterflies were there.

Then, I heard of the severe decline in numbers. Oh no.

This past year, 2021, I went 3 times.

Alone to truly cherish the quiet serenity of the butterfly grove.

Then took friends who had never been there.

And again, with friends to share the experience.

Alas, 2022, sad news.

As a result of the findings of a tree health assessment, many trails on Ellwood Mesa have been closed. The Goleta Butterfly Grove will remain closed indefinitely.

This can’t be true, but I know it is.

I must rejoice in the many splendid memories of this most wondrous place.

And will take joy whenever I spot an individual monarch butterfly.

May the Mighty Monarch Butterflies continue their glorious Migration.

Until we meet again.