Along their migratory routes, monarch butterflies stay nights in certain trees. The ‘butterfly trees,’ as they are called, are carefully chosen – although the criteria exercised in their selection are not known. Species is unimportant, obviously, for at one stopover the roosting tree may be a eucalyptus, at another a cedar or an elm. But, and this is what is interesting, they are always the same trees. Year after year, whether moving south or returning north, monarchs will paper with their myriad wings at twilight a single tree that has served as a monarch motel a thousand times before. Memory? If so, it is genetic. For you see, the butterflies who journey south are not the ones who come back. Monarchs lay their eggs in sunny climes. Then they die. The hordes who flutter northward in spring are a succeeding generation. Yet, without hesitation, they roost in the same trees as did their ancestors.
Scientists have examined butterfly trees and found them chemically and physically identical to the trees surrounding them. Yet no other tree will do. Investigators have camouflaged a tree’s color, altered its scent. The monarchs were not fooled. Another of nature’s mysterious constants; a butterfly always knows when it is there.
A hundred blackbirds will evacuate a tree at precisely the same second – without a discernible signal of any kind. A variety of orchids, lacking nectar as an enticement but needing to be pollinated, attract male bees by emitting odors like that of the female bee. A wasp will bore for an hour into the hardwood of a tree at the exact spot where hides the tiny grub in whose body she lays her eggs: there is no outward sign that the grub is there, yet the wasp never misses.
At the disposal of the ‘lower’ animals are invisible clocks and computers about which science can only speculate. Similarly, scientists have discovered and recorded laws to which electricity, gravity and magnetism adhere – but they have practically no understanding of what these forces are or why.
It would seem that there exists in the time-space grid a system of natural order, a mathematics of energy whose “numbers” are even more a riddle to us than their progressions. It is this arithmetic of consciousness that more simple men call the ‘supernatural.’ The mystery of migrating butterflies, the mystery of gravity and dreams are but operating arms of the Great Mystery, the perpetuation of which sustains us all.