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Sonnet XVIII - Can't Resist Butterflies
An update and new poem about how butterflies have caught my attention lately.
Last year, when I had bat-fever running through my veins - as in, I was enamored with bats for a bit there - I met a man on the other side of my neighborhood. I had seen him once out in his garden taking pictures of flowers. And when I saw him out there the day I met him, I assumed that he probably was an ecologist type of some sort. I shamelessly walked up to him and introduced myself. As I conversed with him, I learned that he was not a career ecologist, that he was retired, and that he studied, took care of, and took pictures of, his surrounding environment as a layman. Being interested in such things myself, I immediately got caught up in the facts and information he began to share with me.
In that first meeting, I remember Steve telling me about some of the flora growing in the nearby utility easement. He also mentioned some names of butterflies, but I didn’t catch on to what he was talking about then. Mostly, my mind was on bats, and so when there was a lull in his instruction, I ventured to ask him if he knew anything about bats - if he saw them and knew where they roosted. He didn’t. I was a little disappointed, but was hooked on the new information I was learning from him. At the end of his small, guided tour of his garden, I asked him if it was okay to come back and talk with him again. He mentioned the times he was usually out working in his garden, and then we said our goodbyes.
I may have visited Steve one more time after that last year, but mostly my mind was preoccupied with prayers for my dad and family, and getting through a difficult, transitionary school year at work. This year, as I’ve been settling back into a new, and, so far, improved, school year, and getting myself back up after my dad passed away, I’ve been going on walks in my neighborhood again.
I went for a walk to the easement one evening, and vaguely noticed that the flora looked rather brown and ugly in some places. My mind didn’t fully realize it and know why, though, until I happened upon Steve again, finally at last, on a recent Saturday morning. He told me about how the utility company had hired someone to spray poison under the powerlines, in order to deter the woody plants (the trees), but in the process they ended up killing a lot of flora that the butterflies are dependent on. When he mentioned this, that’s when I began to finally really hear him talking about butterflies. I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures and notes. During that “lesson”, I learned that gulf fritillaries are midsized, bright orange butterflies, and that one of their host plants is a passion flower vine.
During the next lesson, on Labor Day, Steve was very excited for monarch caterpillars that were eating away at his milkweed plants. We counted about 12 caterpillars, and he said he would be happy if the next time he came out, the plants had been left bare. We also took a walk in the easement along the path he had mowed. He showed me various flowers and plants, many of them hosts for caterpillars and butterflies. And then, with his keen eye, he spotted a chrysalis with a gulf fritillary just emerging. Initially, he thought it was dead, and just as we were about to move on, the critter began to move and slowly open its silvery, new wings. Steve called his wife and told her the exciting news. It was amazing, indeed. And, it was indeed an exciting morning we had, studying and watching.
I haven’t seen Steve since Labor Day. But, I have gone to his garden and the easement a few times. Each time, I practice my knowledge and I identify the cloudless sulphurs, sleepy oranges, and fiery skippers; I look to see if there are caterpillars still, eating away at leaves; and, I try to look for chrysalises, but my eyes are not yet well trained for that. When I see a butterfly I’ve not yet learned, I wonder what it is, and I’ve taken a couple pictures of them and want to take some time soon, hopefully, to identify them.
A couple days ago as I was walking up and down my street, I noticed a caterpillar struggling on the road. Normally, I wouldn’t have cared and would have kept on walking. But, since my new butterfly knowledge is hanging out right there on the surface of my mind, I bent down and had a close look at it. I wondered if it was a full-grown gulf fritillary caterpillar, but didn’t know. I kind of regretted that I haven’t had more “lessons” with Steve, and haven’t done my own research. Having pity on it, anyway at least, I picked it up and carried it to a yard and set it down, leaving it to its destiny.
After that, as I continued my walk, I was surprised at my thoughts and actions toward that caterpillar. I was also surprised, I realized, at the way I noticed and wondered about butterflies that I knew or didn’t know yet. And lastly, I realized that I was slightly sad when little dead caterpillars floated around in the warm salt water which I used to wash off some kale from the garden. In all of this, I noticed that I kind of couldn’t help myself with all of my thoughts, emotions and actions. Since I have come into the way of seeing the beauty of butterflies, it’s hard to unsee it, and it’s hard to think that some beauty will not be developed or seen.
I’ve written a sonnet about all of this, and it’s included at the end of this newsletter. Before I release you to it though, I would like to share with you that this whole experience has been symbolic for me. It was several years ago that I left my parents house, not knowing where I was going, but depending on God and the wind of the Holy Spirit to take me to my destiny. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I was led to some friends, who were quite like Steve in that they were also teachers, and they began to open my eyes to the beauty of God in Jesus Christ. As I learned from them, I also began to study and seek for myself, and I actually experienced God in his reality and beauty. And ever since then, I can’t unsee God, and I can’t not share about him in some way.
A caterpillar made its way to street. I walked along and saw it struggling there, Bending, I picked it up with my hands bare, and took it to a yard and set on leaf Would I have cared if I had not met Steve? Would I have stopped and stooped to save creature? Had I not met my butterfly teacher, would I have ever known and met beauty? But now because of him I can’t resist the urge to learn the names of new ones seen, the urge to look for some chrysalises, the regret I feel washing kale leaves in salt water and watching caterpillars float, knowing they'll never grow and take wing.
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