One whiff of that scent and I'm taken back to sunny days in San Diego and quiet mornings sitting next to the Lily Pond, watching the fish and turtles swim. My Saturday morning routine was to stop at the Starbucks off of University, then head over to Balboa Park to enjoy the morning. And when I say morning, I was usually up by 6. Waking up at 4:30 during the work week sets you up for a pretty early weekend schedule, too.
One must time arrival at the park between when the homeless people are packing up and moving to their daytime haunts and the tourists arrive. At that time of morning the only other people around are joggers and dog walkers. It's quiet--sometimes you can hear the macaws squawking from inside the zoo.
I usually sat along the pond to write letters to friends back home before unwrapping my camera to document my favorite parts of the park. It was one such morning that I found the monarch bushes. Near the door into the botanical building I noticed a plant that was looking a bit worse for wear, all sorts of leaf area having been chewed. Upon closer inspection, there were caterpillars on those leaves! While I'd never seen a monarch caterpillar in person before, some part of my mind reached back to a science lesson from long ago, and I didn't doubt at all what I had found. When I started to see the jeweled chrysalises tucked under the leaves, I was certain these bushes were full of monarchs preparing for the final stage of metamorphosis.
I must have watched those caterpillars and taken pictures of them for nearly an hour. Time just wandered by, and it was early enough that there was no one around to bother me. Two weeks later I made another visit to the bushes to check how my caterpillars had progressed. I was rewarded with a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis! All in all, it was one of my best discoveries inside the park.