Kaneohe woman learns healing through butterflies

Published: Sep. 11, 2009 at 12:22 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 11, 2009 at 5:54 PM HST
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Dancetta Feary
Dancetta Feary
Mackey Feary
Mackey Feary
John Stimson
John Stimson
White monarch butterflies
White monarch butterflies
Valerie Lee
Valerie Lee

By Diane Ako - bio | email

KANEOHE (KHNL) - Gorgeous monarch butterflies -- hundreds of them -- live in Kaneohe at Dancetta Feary's house.

"I just wanted to have butterflies in my yard," butterfly farmer Dancetta Feary said. "I always thought it was really beautiful."

Five years ago, she started raising them.

"It was a time of my life when there was so  much happening and it was like I needed a change," said Feary

There are butterflies everywhere, in every stage -- eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies.

She's built large cages to house them. The yard is rigged with anti-bird devices.

"This is my own invention for scaring the bulbul birds!" said Feary.

All they do is eat! If you listen closely, you can hear it. This whimsical hobby has kind of taken over her life. She spends four  hours a day caring for her pets.

"I wake up at 6:00 AM. I feed everybody. I come out to check if the caterpillars need food," said Feary. "It's a good hour to two hours with the butterflies. Then I do some real estate. I'm a realtor, I have to keep reminding myself. When I come home it's butterflies again. Feeding caterpillars, my dogs, myself, more real estate. My day ends after midnight."

But it's what she loves.

"They teach me that life is...there's so much beauty," said Feary.

When Dancetta started this, she needed an outlet for her stress.

"I think it was because my own life was going through such changes," said Feary.

It all started with her brother Mackey Feary, lead singer for the popular group Kapalana, who killed himself while in prison.

"My bother passed away, I got a divorce, we had a lawsuit with our family trust, and I had three court cases in six years back-to-back," said Feary.

It devastated her.

"He really was the only baby I ever had. He was my baby brother. I never had children of my own," said Feary. "It's tough. It was very challenging, very tough. I would have used the word depressing then, but I see things through wider eyes now and I see everything is here for a reason, and everything is good."

The butterflies got her through it all by showing her how to navigate life's hazards all alone.

"From the day they're born the mother lays them on a leaf and that's it," said Feary. "They've really taught me more. You can be independent and strong and be by yourself."

They also teach her how to live for each day.

"They're so in to the moment, which is OK -- get food and eat. They're alone and they make it," said Feary.

And reminding her perseverance has its rewards.

"The whole metamorphosis of being a caterpillar, turning into a chrysalis and then turning into a butterfly is something so beautiful, amazing," said Feary.

By witnessing their small miracles every day, Dancetta learned to be strong.

"I guess I grew up believing a guy or somebody could save me, be my savior. Show me the way. Lead the way for me. Be the example. But now I know I can find my own inner strength. It's within all of us," said Feary.

Every day, she releases another batch of butterflies, setting her friends out into the world.

"I get the biggest thrill when they first go out and they're like mini hang gliders," said Feary.

You're probably used to seeing brilliant orange monarchs. But many of hers are the rare white variety! When she first heard about the unusual color she asked University of Hawaii Professor John Stimson to help her.

"We had raised them at the university," said Stimson. "We knew if you mated white and white you get all white offspring."

He advised her on what to do, and lo and behold, one August 13,

"I see these whitish monarchs in my cage!" said Feary. "The first two or three were born on August 13, which is Mackey's birthday. I nicknamed them Mackey's monarchs. It's a gift from him."

Her goal is to keep the monarchs, especially the rare whites, abundant for future generations. She wants to get more people interested in raising them. So Dancetta opens her home to public tours.

"On the first Saturday of every month I invite people over. They can come and look at the butterflies, the kids especially. But you'd be surprised at how many big kids there are. They can come and feed the butterflies. I explain all the different steps. They can come into the garden and release the butterflies. There's an Indian legend that you whisper your wish to a butterfly, set it free, and they take it to your loved one," said Feary.

She lets people release the butterflies at the end.

"This tour was neat," said Valerie Lee, farm visitor. "I've never seen these white butterflies before."

It's Dancetta's way of honoring Mackey's memory, while moving through her own pain.

"We learn from everything we go through. Unless we let ourselves feel the pain we don't take advantage of opportunity," said Feary.

She says she's happy -- for now.

"I'm still metamorphosing, but I think all of life is change," said Feary.

Dancetta can be reached at:
Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties
Pali Palms Plaza, Suite C-215
970 Kalaheo Avenue
Kailua, HI 96734