Dellarobia Turnbow has put on her second-hand boots and is climbing the steep wooded hillside behind her remote Appalachian home to start a love affair, “risking everything, pointing her little chin up that hill and walking unarmed into the shoot-out of whatever might be.”
But it is not the affair that is going to transform her life. Before she can even meet up with her would-be lover, she is brought to a standstill by the valley blazing “with its own internal flame” of “trees turned to fire” “a valley of lights”.
The orange that Dellarobia first thought was fire is millions and millions of orange Monarch Butterflies hanging in vast living curtains from the trees. To some locals they are unwanted intruders lying in the way of plans to raze the hillsides to earn desperately needed money. Others see them as a potential tourism attraction.
But to the scientists they are a portend of environmental disaster. The butterflies would normally be congregating in Mexico but clear felling their habitation has disrupted their life cycle. They have instead being lulled into a false sense of security by the warm summer months. And soon, the season change will create a harsh climate that will inevitable annihilate them, potential fatally disrupting the biological chain of which they are a part.