The PBS television series Nova just aired an episode called The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies. It can be viewed piece by piece online, and can be ordered by DVD. It might be of interest to people for its insights into the flight of butterflies, used as imagery for the spiritual life in St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. I post it here in the "Dove" category for its interest to an ongoing series I am writing about her flight imagery, including the dove and butterfly.
Here are a couple of her references to the flight of the butterfly, which is a subject I will get to shortly in that series:
"Later on we will speak of the little butterfly, which is never still, for it can find no true repose, yet always fertile, doing good both to itself and others." Fifth Mansion, Chapter IV.
"It seems as if we had deserted the little dove for a long time, but this is not the case, for these past trials cause her to take a far higher flight." Sixth Mansion, Chapter II.
"These sublime favours leave the soul so desirous of fully enjoying Him Who has bestowed them that life becomes a painful though delicious torture, and death is ardently longed for. Such a one often implores God with tears to take her from this exile where everything she sees wearies her. Solitude alone brings great alleviation for a time, but soon her grief returns and yet she cannot bear to be without it. In short, this poor little butterfly can find no lasting rest. So tender is her love that at the slightest provocation it flames forth and the soul takes flight. . . . O poor little butterfly! chained by so many fetters that stop thee from flying where thou wouldst!" Sixth Mansion, Chapter VI
"Perhaps when St. Paul said, ‘He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit, ’he meant this sovereign marriage, which presupposes His Majesty’s having been joined to the soul by union. The same Apostle says: ‘To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ This, I think, might here be uttered by the soul, for now the little butterfly of which I spoke dies with supreme joy, for Christ is her life." Seventh Mansion, Chapter II
(All quotations from Interior Castle are from the translation of the Benedictines of Stanbrook online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)
In the PBS series, Chapter II, the narrator describes the the butterfly's difficulties in flight, given its physical characteristics, and yet Monarch butterflies can make a 2,000 mile journey from Canada to Mexico. David Gibo of the University of Toronto explains that they do this partly by soaring in thermals, where the air, warmed by the ground, carries them higher:
"Soaring is gliding in rising air, much like I'm doing right now. The sun heats the ground, the ground heats the air above it. As the air heats, it expands and becomes lighter and begins to rise, and pretty soon you have a column of rising air. That's a thermal. Under good conditions you can maintain the altitude you're at or even gain altitude. A more helpful maneuver is to circle in it. And you see hawks doing this and vultures doing this all the time, circling the thermal, staying within it. And this seems like a wonderful free ride, and it is. Soaring is the key to them getting to Mexico."
Later in the show, the narrator explains that after the butterflies mate and the female lays 300 to 400 eggs, the parents will die.