Patch's Weekday column about people and places.
Concordians Patsy Eickelberg and Dick Walton are just returned from Cape May, N.J., where they observed the fall migration of monarch butterflies along the Atlantic Coast.
In the fall, monarch butterflies fly 2,500 miles from Canada to Mexico. To learn more about this amazing journey, naturalists at the Monarch Monitoring Project at the Cape May Bird Observatory count butterflies three times each day: at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.
Dick, now retired from teaching at Willard School, has been studying monarch migration for more than 20 years and directs the Monarch Monitoring Project.
Here's the amazing bit: the naturalists also tag the butterflies, attaching a minuscule identifying tag to a hind wing that "looks like a mitten," Patsy says. The butterfly trackers tag between 5,000 and 7,000 of the tiny creatures—they weigh less than a paper clip—over the course of about three weeks. Then off they fly, complete with ID number and toll-free telephone number, so naturalists farther south can report on their progress.
Monarchs live six to eight months. Patsy explained that it takes one generation to fly from Canada to Mexico. It takes four to five generations to get back up to Canada. "So we were seeing the great-great grandchildren of those who last flew down the coast."
What Is Flash Fiction?
That was the question everyone was asking at the Flash Fiction panel at Kerem Shalom last night, part of the Concord Festival of Authors.
Answer: Flash fiction is short. "It's about capturing moments, voices, scenes, and emotions in very tight space," said moderator Tara Masih.
Flash fiction stories are between 200 and 1750 words. Masih read a 177-word story last night.
Another question: How is flash fiction different from prose poetry?
Answer: Flash fiction is about stories; prose poetry is founded in language. But "I don't care what people call it as long as they publish it," said panelist Rusty Barnes.
Each panelist read a story. If you want to experience this art form where every word matters, I recommend American Repertory Theatre's Will LeBow reading panelist Pamela Painter's story, "The Ham," on WGBH's Morning Stories.
And at YouTube, you can see the flash film made from panelist Stace Budzko's story, "How to Set a House on Fire." It's 3.01 minutes.