September 27, 2006

Delicate wings

butterfly

When I was a little kid, I would sometimes sit on the lawn on a lazy summer afternoon, making chains out of dandelions or looking for four-leaf clovers. And from that low vantage point, I would notice butterflies, skimming just above the grasses. My mother had warned me not to try to catch a butterfly – she said that my fingers would damage the wings – so I always just watched carefully until the butterfly was out of my sight.

As I grew older and taller, I stopped noticing butterflies. I think I was always moving too fast, or looking at bigger elements of the landscape. Until I met Artist Friend. When I take a walk with him, he always points out things that I wouldn't notice – an unusual fern, perhaps. And often, he points to butterflies. "Nice swallowtail," he'll say. And he'll pause to watch where the butterfly goes, his whole attention focused on those delicate wings.

Last weekend, while I was walking through the orchard at the monastery, I noticed a beautiful monarch butterfly flitting around the banks of wildflowers. I sat on the grass for a while and watched the butterfly, thinking about Artist Friend and taking the time to sort through all kings of things in my life. I took a photo for my blog friends because I figured I might have deep and profound things to say about this butterfly. After all, the butterfly figures prominently in the mythology of many cultures, sometimes as the messenger between heaven and earth, sometimes as the symbol of rebirth and regeneration. It seemed that the presence of this butterfly, which danced and flew and kept folding and unfolding its wings, might have some deep spiritual significance.

So I planned to write a post about butterflies today. I woke up at 6:30 am to spend time with my two youngest as they got ready for school. Then I hurried to campus, taught my first class, answered a bunch of emails, graded maybe one paper, talked to a colleague who needed advice, taught my second class, talked to a student, wrote several emails, ate half a bagel, taught my third class, met with an advisee, talked to another colleague, went to a long but productive meeting with an administrator, graded a few papers, ate the other half of my bagel, wrote an abstract, met with my 5 pm seminar class, raced home in time to join my husband for Meet-the-Teacher Night at Shaggy Hair's school, talked to Boy in Black, who had stopped home after his Wednesday drum lesson, read to my youngest child, helped my husband put away the groceries he had run out to get after we realized we had no bread for school lunches ... and then sat down after 10 pm to finally eat something substantial and write a profound post about the butterfly at the monastery.

But really, the only profound thought going through my head is this: I can't believe that just a few days ago I had time to sit quietly in an orchard and do nothing but watch a butterfly.

14 comments:

zelda1 said...

Here, the monarchs are migrating. I noticed them yesterday, hundreds, maybe thousands were flying low and the birds were trying to catch as many as they could and the monarchs kept right on soaring up and down and headed to California. I wonder how long it takes them?

Suzanne said...

Wow, I think I got tired just be reading about your day! What a study in contrasts. Welcome home!

elsewhere said...

We call that a 'wanderer butterfly'...

listmaker said...

Last weekend I found a dead monarch on our patio. As I was studying it, the wind came up and took the butterfly on a last flight over the gorge.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I have been trying to comment here all day. Blogger has not been cooperating.

I wrote about butterflies, too. We seem to have millions of butterflies this year. Are there more than usual where you live, too?

Cats & Dogma said...

Funny, I had a Wednesday not unlike yours, and yet just last Sunday, was showing my little boy the butterflies in the Butterfly garden on next to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He was almost as excited bu the flutter-bys as he was about the 'ceratops in the museum...funny how we have to steal tehse moments back for ourselves these days.

ppolarbear said...

(o)

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: Yeah, blogger has been uncooperative all day. The only nice thing about that is often when blogger comments aren't working, I get lots of emails from people.

It's hard to say whether we are having more butterflies this year ... or I am just noticing them more ....

Sara said...

Great photo, jo(e). Butterflies can be very difficult to capture on film. I love the gorgeous bright colors here.

Kristen said...

Wow, that would be all I could manage to think about, too. But I think there *is* something profound about that - just on some different levels, maybe.

Southernmush said...

Hello...I enjoy coming to read your writing. I really liked reading this entry because I have been noticing butterflies here in Atlanta, Georgia which is where I live. I saw one by my mailbox today but I don't know where he or she was going. I have a question...How can you tell if a butterfly is a male or female ?
Thanks for sharing this. Take care

jo(e) said...

southernmush: I don't know myself, but ArtistFriend sent me an email to tell me that the one in this photo is a female. He says the males have thinner black markings along the veins of their wings, and a raised black spot on the hind wings.

Marie said...

Gorgeous photo. And thanks for sharing about your day. I always thought you college professors had it easier than us high school teachers, but I'm thinking I'll keep my schedule, thank you very much.

petrenkov said...

It was rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Truly yours
Steave Markson