Friday, October 19, 2007

Honing Instincts

It flitted by and surprised us. While 13 miles out to sea from the Gloucester, MA harbor, a Monarch butterfly flew close to the deck railing of the whale watching boat. My husband said to a nearby man, “He’s a long way from home.”

That same day, aboard the Hurricane II (115 foot) boat, we saw five juvenile humpback whales. The rich krill feeding grounds of the cold Maine Gulf served ample meals to the youngsters. They filtered gallons of water through baleen plates, and with teenage appetites, fed around the clock, doing their part to reach adult size, up to 50 foot long.

From my vantage point at the rail, the humpbacks looked about the length of their granddaddies. Like us, the juveniles were on a round trip journey. Soon, they would migrate to the warmer waters near the Dominican Republic, the humpback delivery and breeding grounds.

After we returned home, we watched a television special about migrating Monarchs. University and nature programs monitor the Monarch flights. A tagging system, a whisper-light sticker for a wing, allows researchers to track distances and destinations.

School children can get involved in the tagging process at, a comprehensive site with interesting facts and statistics. Monarchs need to store plenty of fat in their abdomens to fly 1,000-3,000 miles to warmer climates. The Monarchs maiden-fly to exact locations and often to the same tree as their late grandparents and great grandparents roosted in the previous year.

Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains fly to trees along the California coast. Those east of the Rocky Mountains fly to forests in the high mounts of Mexico. In South Texas, you may have seen a lot of Monarchs earlier this week because it was peak time for their travels through our neck of the woods.

“Another unsolved mystery is how Monarchs find the overwintering sites each year,” states, in cooperation with the University of Kansas. “No one knows how their honing system works; it is another of the many unanswered questions in the butterfly world.”

During migrating season, if a Monarch is caught and then released hundreds of miles away, it will seem confused for about five days. And then a remarkable thing happens, it somehow gets new flight bearings and joins up with its kin.

People stray, too. Some walked godly paths before, and some have never believed in God. But, I’ve noticed that many will return to belief or find God for the first time, late in life. Solomon said God “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccl.3:11).

God excels in creating honing devices in animals and men. His implanted human-heart compasses are capable of pointing folks to him. Seeking the meaning to life is an earth-old quest. The deep seated hope of something eternal is from God.

If you are floundering outside your flight pattern, take hope, this old world is not all there is to life. There is still the God-friendly climate of eternity to return to and explore.

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