Smashing Color

with Maggie Maggio

Monarch Butterflies

monarch1.gifYesterday was the first day of spring and I am wondering if the monarch butterflies have started their flights from Mexico back to the U.S.

I just finished Four Wings and a Prayer by Sue Halpern, a book about the mystery of monarch butterfly migration. It was a fabulous look inside the scientific world and a fun way to learn lots of little facts about butterflys. Did you know they can’t fly if its too cold?

I was most interested in her descriptions of all the different factions in the monarch world. There were turf wars. Nasty attacks online. Complaints both about going too slowly and moving too fast. Lots of  “my way is better than your way” posturing between scientists. And a sense of the elitism that many in the scientific community feel for the amateur lepidopterists.  Sound familiar?

Ah, I thought, niches are all the same. You get a group together who share a common passion and sooner or later they will splinter into subgroups and conflict begins. Does it have to be that way?

Actually, I think it does.  It seems to be our nature to subdivide and subdivide everything into smaller and smaller groups. In the book, there were eastern and western migration patterns; butterflies that migrate to Mexico and those that migrate to California. One of the big questions was whether they are the same species of monarch or subspecies of monarch. I doubt the monarchs care.

In nature everything is interconnected and all the subgroups work together. In the monarch world the connections include the milkweek plant, the mountains of Mexico and probably your backyard.

monarch4.jpgOne of the main concerns of the book when it was published in 2002 was that global climate change was affecting the butterflys. I found good ideas for helping the Monarchs as they return this spring and lots of great information on Monarch Watch at the Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.  There’s a great photo on their site that reminds me of Janet Farris‘s butterfly necklace.


Another first day of spring note . . . we launched the new version of the National Polymer Clay Guild website. Webmaster Barbara Forbes-Lyons spent hours upon hours over the last few months getting it ready, and “Wow” is it cool! There’s still some work to do to make it match the vision that Barb, Judy Belcher and the board have for the site but there are many great features already up. For example, I was able to write and publish an article about the next National Conference with just a little help from Barb along the way.

Speaking of the conference, it will be unlike anything we have done before in the polymer world. Short, no pasta machines and a focus on design and business as well as demos on technique.

The choice of the word Synergy as the name of the conference was a tough one. We know it is cliche’ in some circles and unknown in others.  But its meaning – parts coming together to make a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts – is what we want for the polymer community. We are hoping the conference will draw participants from all “species” of polymer enthusiasts and give us the opportunity to spend time together, share information, and leave energized about the future of polymer clay. 



  1. Heather Bradley

    October 19, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Wow…seredipity. I was looking for peace symbol images ~ your blog came up with a picture of Queen Elizabeth (don’t know the connection to peace symbols!) and then an entry for Spring 2007 about 4 Wings and a Prayer, which I just read this summer and throuroughly enjoyed and now I see that you are an artist too!
    Must be a universe moment! I’ll check your current blogging out soon!

  2. Maggie,

    Thank you for your insights on this subject. I don’t know if I should thank you for adding another book to my ‘must be read’ pile, though! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *