The Monarchs have returned to Pacific Grove. They do that about this time every year. They’ve become such a part of the town they have their own neighborhood, the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. It’s a beautiful spot, peaceful and quiet. Just the place to hang out for the winter, which is exactly what brings them to town.
When I lived in Pacific Grove in the early 1980s, just on the other side of the Monarch butterfly grove, it wasn’t a destination, it was just a quiet place in the neighborhood. In the 1990s, the City bought the land and created a management plan for the site. Today, Pacific Grove is known as Butterfly Town USA. It’s a good thing the monarchs keep coming back.
In fact, they are the only butterflies that make a two-way migration and each does it alone on the air currents and thermals for 3,000 miles. No big flocks flying in formation. No honking announcement. One-by-one they show up at their winter refuge. Their distinctive orange and black coloring makes their fall arrival a kick-off to the changing season. They bivouac … really that’s what it’s called … in the mix of pine and eucalyptus trees at the Sanctuary, grouped together, forming a thermal blanket for each other as they recuperate.
One of the common names for this species of butterfly is wanderer. That distinction resonates with me.
I wandered back to the County at about the same time Pacific Grove was becoming a sanctuary city for this iconic resident. My journey took 10 years; generations of monarchs had come and gone in my decade away. And so it was for me, too. I’d returned after hop-scotching my way around California, following a career route that made a giant circle. My 3,000 journey brought me back to a place that felt like home even though friends and acquaintances had moved on, a not uncommon occurrence anymore.
It’s interesting how a place sticks with you; becomes somewhere you want to call home. This area is like that. Home isn’t just where you grew up, it’s where you find your tribe … or cluster. It’s refuge … or a sanctuary. It’s where your friends are your safety net … a thermal blanket of support. It’s where your journey can take you far away … but you return to that spot that’s firmly rooted in your DNA. Like a grove of eucalyptus and pine trees.
Or a crescent-shaped sweep of land on the edge of the Pacific Coast that becomes a part of your soul.