Bring out the MAGIC FEATHER

My four-year old grandson is responsible for introducing me to the wonder of a magic feather. After scratching hard wood floors while playing with his extensive toy car collection, he ran to the other room, appeared with a feather from his bedroom, waved it proudly over the affected area and proclaimed, “Look daddy!  No more scratches!”

I was so glad to have been witness, although I did have to stifle laughter. Nice magic trick, if it had worked. I want one of those magic feathers!

I think if I didn’t have a blog I’ve titled “breathe lighter” I might be tempted to turn the “spin cycle” on high and begin throwing all the ways I’m finding life challenging right now. There is a long list. But I also assume in these complex times there isn’t a one of you without your own long list! 

I do, however, look for the positive.

It’s not typical that I find an uplifting story in the Los Angeles Times, but “A future of magical hope along the Central Coast,” by Diana Marcum took a close look at monarch butterflies in coastal California, and did make me smile.

Overdevelopment and loss of native habitat, wildfire conditions, and climate and weather pattern changes may be at least partially responsible for the dramatic decline in numbers of overwintering and migratory monarchs, but the emphasis of the article was on what is being done by citizen scientists as well as the Xerces Society, the science-based organization dedicated to protecting the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habits, to monitor any improvement and look for any signs of hope. 

In 2019 we spent some time in Santa Cruz, leisurely searching and enjoying the butterfly groves. Although extremely pleasant, we didn’t see as many butterflies as we had hoped, adding to the story of the purported massive decline in numbers.

Our weekend in Santa Cruz was only a few months prior to the 2020 shutdown. Being at home and not venturing out brought me into a real love relationship with my own backyard. 

And In 2020 and 2021 I spent spring through fall rescuing monarch caterpillars in my Los Angeles County garden.

Monarch butterflies go through four stages during their life cycle. I rarely see the eggs before I notice the larvae (caterpillar) but being quick to rescue them from the birds I keep jars and terrariums at hand and try to move fast. The only difficult part is being certain to have enough fresh milkweed to feed them. They are dependent on milkweed, preferably a native variety, and I have had some trouble keeping up if the little beauties begin arriving too early in spring.

Even though it’s only February I’m already trying to cultivate enough milkweed because if last year’s pattern is repeated, I will have caterpillars within a month. 

I think if I had a magic feather I’d be wildly waving it in areas of habitat protection for all living creatures. Although there are excellent worldwide conservation efforts joined by millions of “backyard citizen scientists” doing what they can to preserve nature for future generations, we can all cite policies and behaviors that work directly against these efforts.

I recommend this newspaper article for anyone interested in this California local overview, and as I read it, I simply felt hopeful to know that others, like me, really do care. It was nice to feel “positive” for a change.

Then, the following day I really did have to shake my head and maybe laugh a bit ruefully. The Opinion Section of the paper had more than one reader complaining that the article was artificially optimistic. The contributors were irritated at the “hopeful” nature of the article. After all, didn’t we KNOW the numbers had declined by the millions? Why didn’t the article make it perfectly clear that if you didn’t provide native milkweed you weren’t doing it right? And on and on.


I’ll do my part and remain hopeful. And wave my magic feather wherever I go…maybe it will ward off negativity.

And I’d better start preparing my terrariums. They should be arriving any day now.