Sunday, October 18, 2015

Have You Checked Your Magnetic Compass Lately?

I was at a local concert with a casual friend the other evening.  (We were listening to brassy and bold shanty songs of the sailors and oystermen of the Chesapeake Bay.  Most of the songs were original, but still had that boozy sexuality that only boatmen seem to love.  Must have something to do with the up and down of the waves.)

During the intermission, the woman explained to me how she had lived most of her life on the West Coast of America and always accepted that the massive body of water was to the West.  Then she moved here to the East coast a little more than a decade ago and she said she still has to sometimes reset her internal compass to accept that the water is to the East, that the sun sets over the continent.  I thought about this and then somehow realized we are like birds, turtles and lots of others, such as some butterflies, in having that magnetic compass that has been set inside by the earth.  Like us they instinctively know North and South and East and West and then have it confirmed by land masses and bodies of water and sometimes by smells and wind drifts.  I think we do the same, but ignore this inner link to our earth because we have other technical guidance systems and pathways that distract us and keep us on task.  The artificial temperatures we create and the artificial smells turn us to a narrower path.

This year I had only ONE Monarch butterfly visit the yard.  I have planted at least three butterfly milkweed plants for them to eat and use, but to no avail.  They are disappearing.  We never had many on this side of the continent, but now some are talking of near extinction.  It is just a butterfly after all.  Who would notice if it was gone?  It is just one more tiny knot in the fabric of life that it beginning to come loose.  



11 comments:

Aisling said...

I read an incredible book many years ago by Jo Brewster called Wings Across the Meadow. An individual monarch was her central character. The book chronicled his life from birth, through his incredible journey across the continent. Monarchs have been a fleeting beauty through the gardens and summers of my life. I would mourn them deeply if they were to dissppear.

Red said...

Interesting ideas about our being wired for orientation on the earth.

Jenny Woolf said...

I found it very confusing once flying from Iceland to Florida at sunset. We were travelling with the sun and so "sunset" lasted for hours and hours! I was amazed at how disconcerting this was!

The Furry Gnome said...

I've always thought we tend to orient ourselves by the sun, but magnetic intuition is a neat idea! I wonder if there's any gender difference? There is in how we use maps. Anyway we had more Monarchs this year than for several years, i'm glad to report.

messymimi said...

Some people have this internal compass setting better than others, and some have even deeper connections, i think. There was a Native American woman i knew who could not only smell when rain was on the way, but tell you how far it was and when it would arrive. Some of us have this better than others, i'm convinced, just as some can do complicated math in their heads and some barely add two and two. Some can always figure out which way to go to get "unlost" and others can't find their way out of a paper bag (like my Bigger Girl).

But yes, we all have it to some degree, and we lose it when we ignore or stray too far from our internal connections.

ellen abbott said...

saw two monarchs this year as opposed to one last year. I planted two milkweed plants last year's spring and they have multiplied but have not seen any caterpillars. if we do have a magnetic orientation, what will happen when the magnetic field flips as it has done in the past and is near doing again so say the scientists. living inland, I don't have a big geographic element to attach the setting or rising sun to. it rises above land and sets below land so my marker is the sun. I do know that contact with the earth is necessary for good mental and physical health, it's called grounding, and the magnetic element might be a part of that. it's why I go barefoot outdoors.

Anita said...

Being outdoors in the midst of nature has always given me an indescribable feeling (If I'm not roasting or freezing). The magnificence is powerful. Too bad about the beautiful Monarch butterflies.

Celia said...

Sad for the butterflies. We used to see loads of them during my childhood summers in Oregon and Washington but now it rarely that I see even one.

Bob Bushell said...

Brilliant image Tabor, I would love to catch one.

Snaggle Tooth said...

The magnetic poles are shifting the planets mag lines for species navigation. I wrote about this in 2007...
Maybe landmarks have messed them up too- so much change!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

When I travel, look for the Big Dipper. I know exactly where it is each night at my home and with that, it helps me to find my place. Doesn't work so great in a large city, however.

I found a place online to order milkweed plants. Not that I've had much luck growing anything lately. I did, however, find monarch larvae on my fennel plant this year.