Longtime Montclair resident Trina Paulus, 91, wrote her iconic book about monarch butterflies, ‘Hope for the Flowers’ in 1972. It has sold three million copies and been translated into 17 languages .
The picture is much less rosy for monarchs, whose numbers have dropped 97% in the 50 years since the book’s release. Yet Paulus continues to make a difference in his own garden, which matches the book’s subtitle: “A fable, for adults and children, part about life, part about revolution and a lot about hope” .
Along with other local conservationists she inspired, Paulus saves monarch eggs from milkweed in her garden and continues to host an annual butterfly release celebration in Crane Park that she has hosted for decades.
Starting Saturday, there will be a week-long exhibition in Montclair of 30 canvas prints of the book, which Paulus wrote and illustrated, to honor his 50th birthday. The free exhibit, including Saturday storytimes, is at the Loop on Maple Street.
Montclair has become a bit of a Monarch hideaway. In July, it was named “Monarch City” by Monarch USA because of its many backyard stations with native plants and milkweed, both of which are essential for supporting fragile creatures as they migrate from 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada and back.
In 2020, the city was named New Jersey’s host city for the Northeast Pollinator Pathway project, in recognition of its pesticide-free corridors of native plants. The Montclair-based Northeast Earth Coalition has also created wildlife habitats and pollinator gardens at many public schools in Montclair.
Earlier this year, Montclair City Council passed the Jose German-Gomez Native Species Act, named after the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition, which requires that 70% of vegetation planted on city property be native to the region, since native plants and trees have evolved to be uniquely adapted to provide essential food and habitat for pollinators.
During the 2020 butterfly release, Paulus showed no signs of slowing down. She sported a butterfly tiara and a T-shirt with a phrase from the book: “Without butterflies, the world would soon have few flowers.”
“It’s a very nice event, very convivial,” she says. “Butterflies always do that for people. They are so happy, so full of hope.
Jane Califf and her husband, Ted Glick, said they got hooked on rescuing monarchs after attending a backyard party years ago where Paulus handed out chrysalises to guests.
The Bloomfield couple then began growing their own milkweed, as well as pollinating plants that provide nectar for butterflies.
The first year, when Califf found no evidence of monarchs, Paulus came over and showed him the tiny eggs on the underside of a milkweed leaf.
“She’s a real trailblazer,” said Glick, president of the New Jersey and Rockland chapter of the climate advocacy group 350.
Another protege is Russell Kahn, who was “blown away” to meet Paulus when he moved to Montclair and found she was the author of the book he had read as a child that “gave direction to his life”. In 2013, he launched News-O-Matic, an online children’s newspaper that has half a million readers and is part of school curricula across the country.
Born in Ohio, Paulus went to Egypt and Paris as a young woman with The Grail, an international women’s movement linked to the Catholic Church. She said she had always been drawn to the monarch as a symbol of transformation and hope, but became fascinated with the creatures themselves and their connection to a healthy environment after moving to Montclair.
Paulus was also “very involved in environmental and anti-war activities and inspired many people to take action,” Glick said. In 2000, she helped influence municipal leaders in Montclair and Bloomfield to adopt policies encouraging recycling rather than incineration of waste.
His 25 years with the New Jersey environmental movement are in the documentary archive of the North Jersey Heritage Center at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack.
The free exhibition will tell the story, in 30 large canvas images, of the publication of the book in an era before computers. There will be a story hour for children on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“Hope” will be open Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., with story times at 1 and 3 p.m., and Monday through Thursday, November 7-11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At the Loop, 80 Maple Avenue, Montclair.