Rebirth. It's not a word that is often heard in casual conversation, but it signals a momentous change. Rebirth is when your old life is left behind and you are setting out on new adventures. When I think about it, I've had several rebirths in my life when things happened to me that would change everything about my world.
I'll never forget traveling in some of the poorest parts of South America in college. The people there had so little and yet most of them were so happy. They laughed and joked and celebrated life all over, whether we were in a bus, hitchhiking on the back of a truck full of oranges, or wandering the markets.
They also lived lives far closer to the edge of disaster than I had ever seen. I'll never forget walking out of the hotel and finding the street blocked off by a line of stone-faced men holding machine guns. They wore green uniforms and hardly blinked, let alone made eye contact. We take a lot for granted in this country that I didn't even know we took for granted.
Create memories and magical experiences at Audubon’s Monarch Butterfly Festival on Aug. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Hold a caterpillar or watch a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis as it is reborn into a flying flower.
Borrow an insect net with your family and learn more about what you catch from local insect experts.
For me, it was a rebirth in mindset. It made me realize and value the freedoms of our country, as well as the responsibilities that come with living in a democracy. It also brought home the fact that I wanted to do something with my life that I enjoyed. It was shortly after the gun incident that we went backpacking through the Andes mountains. It was my first backpacking trip ever, and the serenity and beauty of the region inspired me to go home, add a major to my degree and become a naturalist. It was an event that changed the course of my life forever.
Everyone has stories like that. Life is full of rebirths. There is the time you first fall in love, and the first time you fall out of love. There are celebrations for many of these life-altering events: weddings, baby showers, anniversaries and others. Some events, like looking into a newborn's eyes and realizing that you helped create that little life, can never be replicated.
The same is true of the monarch butterfly. I led a class last month to show people how to find monarch caterpillars and eggs. People excitedly sent me photos of their little caterpillars as they grew. Later on, one couple had a re-birthday celebration for the butterfly as it emerged from the chrysalis.
Butterflies and moths have one of the most awesome rebirths. They change from plodding, leaf-bound tubes with legs to brilliantly colored flyers. It is amazing to watch, and a sight I never tire of seeing.
In a way, Audubon's Monarch Butterfly Festival on Aug. 30 will be a celebration of rebirth. The auditorium will be filled with free-flying monarch butterflies. Last year, monarchs had virtually disappeared from the local landscape. This year, their numbers seem to be rising and many more butterflies will be at the festival.
Volunteers will be on hand to tag the monarch butterflies with stickers all day. These stickers are used to identify them as they migrate to the mountains of Mexico. The monarch butterflies flitting around in our yards now will spend the winter high in the mountains of Mexico. It is over a thousand mile journey, which is pretty impressive for an insect.
The Monarch Butterfly Festival is inspired by the rebirth and life of the monarch butterfly. There will be both Mexican-inspired food and more traditional local food to eat. Butterfly crafts will be available. Insect nets will be available to borrow and insect experts on hand to help visitors identify what they catch. Plants to help the monarch butterfly will be available, as well as seeds that can be planted in yards. There will also be tours of Audubon's butterfly garden. Monarch inspired T-shirts and temporary tattoos will be for sale at the festival, too.
The Monarch Butterfly Festival is a great place to build memories. There will be lots of places to take great photos of family and friends as they interact with, or pretend to be, monarch butterflies or caterpillars. The trails are open for hiking and Audubon's Bald Eagle, Liberty, will be available to view.
The festival ends with all the monarch butterflies being released for their long journey to Mexico, a journey that is indescribable and that most of us will never make.
The Monarch Butterfly Festival takes place at Audubon on Saturday, Aug. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information is available at monarchbutterflyfestival.wordpress.com/ or Audubon's website jamestownaudubon.org. It is also listed as an event on the Audubon Center and Sanctuary Facebook page. The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road, near Jamestown, NY and just 15 minutes north of Warren, Pa.
Jeff Tome is a naturalist at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary. He has been raising and releasing monarch butterflies for nine years and coordinates the Monarch Butterfly Festival.