Butterfly

Painted Ladies of the Desert by Jahan Sharif

California’s 2019 Super Bloom

California’s 2019 Super Bloom

Rain falls in the desert like it did on Noah in Genesis. This winter, showers that could only be described as biblical, pounded Southern California’s Colorado and Mojave deserts-- slowly turning the sun-dried earth from dust to soil, and bringing to bear opportunities for new life.

Seeds dormant from decades of drought, sprouted from within the desert floor for the second time in as many years, spawning wild, impressionist tapestries of orange poppies, hot pink Bigelow’s Monkey Flowers, purple Sand Verbenas, delicate white and yellow Evening Primroses, and of course, desert lilies.

Taken together, they formed a super bloom.

Photo by Bahareh Ramezani

Photo by Bahareh Ramezani

Sometime in the past few weeks, between coffee runs and yoga classes, I noticed that leaves were falling from the trees. I thought this was interesting, because I’ve not known leaves to fall in Los Angeles, and especially not in February! So maybe, I thought to myself, they weren’t leaves. Maybe they were flowers-- the dried up petals of the many bougainvillea plants in the area.

A few days later, I noticed them again; and it seemed to be getting worse-- much worse! I tried to get a better look, but it’s been so windy in LA that the leaves never really got low enough for me to grab. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because this time there were so many of these little bronze beasts of botany that I knew they couldn't be dead bougainvillea flowers. So what were they, and why were there so many of them?

The answer came a few days later when, while walking through my neighborhood with a friend, he, with a sudden burst of enthusiasm, said, “Jahan! Look!” He was pointing in front of us to a swarm of the mysterious tumbling non-leaves. “Have you noticed the butterfly migration?! It’s amazing!”

As winter gives way to spring, an estimated 1 billion Painted Lady butterflies will make the 2,000+ mile trek from the deserts of Southern California all the way to Washington and Oregon in America’s Pacific Northwest. Of course, this is not by accident. While the migration happens yearly, the super bloom created the perfect conditions for a super population of butterflies: An abundance of food for which competition was unnecessary.

The Painted Lady butterfly

The Painted Lady butterfly

The Painted Lady is the most common butterfly species on Earth. From the Sahara Desert to medieval cathedrals in Europe to the vast plains of Central Asia, they are present on every continent except for South America and Antarctica. And just like in LA, when the population booms, people take note.

My intention for starting Jaja in was to encourage us-- you and me-- to be more present and to deepen our connection with the people, things, and events that happen in our lives. And last week, as I stood in the shadow cast by thousands of butterflies, I couldn’t help but feel connected; thinking to myself how cool it was that there was a chance that someone else, somewhere on Earth, might also be marveling at their very own super bloom of Painted Ladies.

Los Angeles, CA, USA
March 2019

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