Publisher honors a bright symbol of the ‘Last Hometown’

PACIFIC GROVE — Except for those opaque days when fog eclipses the coastal town like Brigadoon, Pacific Grove is a colorful place. During the spring, the coastline is carpeted with a heady fuchsia glow, as dizzying as the poppies of Oz, when the ice plant comes into bloom.

On late summer days, the fog lifts, revealing an azure sky and cerulean sea in complement to the coastal pine forest for which the town was named. And, in October, with the highly anticipated return of the monarchs, “Butterfly Town” alights with a tracery of black and orange, like stained glass come alive.

The monarchs overwinter in Pacific Grove mostly because of a mild climate that is neither cold enough to kill them nor warm enough to trigger enough activity to exhaust them before their northern migration. Yet plenty of people believe they come in droves because Pacific Grove is so welcoming. They even host a festival for the colorful little “wanderers,” as they are commonly called.

Patricia Hamilton, who had been visiting Pacific Grove since she was a child, and has been living in the “Last Hometown” since 1990, has been a longtime volunteer at the community garden across the street from the Monarch Sanctuary on Ridge Road. From November through February, volunteer docents escort guests through the sanctuary, offering education on the bright butterflies, which includes viewing etiquette.

“While gardening,” said Hamilton, “I couldn’t help but become interested in the neighboring monarchs and thought I should know more about them. What I learned was that a city, which has been known as ‘Butterfly Town’ since around 1938, didn’t have a book about monarchs.”

So, Hamilton, who has owned Pacific Grove’s Park Place Publications since 1982, decided to create a book on monarchs. In fact, she has published three of them, just in time for Pacific Grove’s Butterfly Days, Friday to Oct. 2. “Welcome to Pacific Grove: Butterfly Town USA,” written by Pacific Grove author Joyce Krieg and illustrated by artist Keith Larson, tells the tale of two monarchs seeking sanctuary. The pair also collaborated on a companion color book about “Mari and Posa,” playing off of “Mariposa,” the Spanish word for butterfly.

“Through a sweet storyline and Joyce Krieg’s ‘fun facts’ on every page, the children’s books offer Pacific Grove history,” said Hamilton, “while teaching children and the adults who read to them how to view and handle butterflies in the wild or on exhibit at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.”

Hamilton’s third butterfly book, “Monarchs, Butterfly Town, U.S.A, Pacific Grove,” presents a series of images and writings she collected from contributors’ interactions and relationships with monarchs.

In developing the book, Hamilton discovered early texts from two sources, both of which she excerpted in the book. One source, “The Butterfly Trees” is a 32-page piece written by Lucia Shepardson and published in 1914.

“For several reasons is the Monterey Peninsula famed among the folk who have come to California,” Shepardson wrote. “To it each autumn comes a pilgrimage, the members of which number tens of thousands of pilgrims drawn hither to seek shelter from the cold and the frost of winter, which to them would mean death, These are not men, they are not beasts, nor are they birds, these travelers. They are butterflies.”

Hamilton also uncovered, “The Miracle of Pacific Grove,” a booklet about monarchs, prepared in 1939, on behalf of the first Butterfly Days celebration. She also included photographs and captions submitted during her “Butterflies by the Bay” photography contest earlier this year, resulting in a rich portrayal of the community by those who appreciate Pacific Grove.

“I was impressed by the images and their stories,” she said, “because they get you intimately involved with this area and the butterflies. In addition, the photo captions photographers provided, which reveal the local lore and the story of Pacific Grove, became a very dynamic part of the book, creating a current voice for the Monarch.”

What clearly has remained consistent over the years, Hamilton observed, is the community’s joyous welcome for the annual return of the Monarchs.

A welcome homecoming

In 1890, Hamilton’s great, great grandparents moved from Minnesota to Pacific Grove, where her great- great-grandfather served as one of the first ministers at the legendary Methodist Retreat that launched the town. Hamilton, who had been coming to the coastal community to visit family since she was a child, ultimately made it her home.

“Religion was my roots,” she said. “And, when I got here, I recognized that my life was changing, and I needed to understand more about who I am. So, having already lived out my career in accounting, I enrolled at Monterey Peninsula College and then transferred to UC Santa Cruz, where I earned a degree in philosophy and religious studies.”

Once she decided to establish a publishing business in a town replete with writers, she named it Park Place Publishing after her address, and authors quickly found their way to her.

On Oct. 1, during the Butterfly Days festival, folks will gather at Chautauqua Hall where, introduced by Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Peake,  Hamilton will unveil the three newly published butterfly books, accompanied by several other local authors’ books on Pacific Grove. She also will present the winners of her “Butterflies by the Bay” photography contest.

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