Butterflies, and I’m not talking about butterflies in my stomach. The three score years and ten, plus a few beyond the Biblical convection which I have to date accumulated, have a tendency to mellow pent-up emotions.
The butterflies that I am talking about are the real and the many aerial ballerinas that flit, flutter, float and glide across our yard as I slouch in comfort under the outstretched arms of a shade tree that, lucky for us, survived the tornado.
I don’t think I have ever witnessed a year that I have seen so many varieties of butterflies floating this way and that in choreography, lacking apparent forethought, pattern or direction – or could it be that I am at long last starting to pay attention to what is actually going on around me?
Perhaps it is the extremely dry weather that has made the flowers fewer and farther between, forcing them to wander greater lengths in search of self-sustaining nectar.
This past morning as I sat sipping my second cup in support of the coffee industry, an eastern tiger swallowtail lit on a white clover blossom. Flitting in the same area were several cabbage whites, an orange sulphur, and two or more mourning cloaks.
Before my coffee was half consumed, a black swallowtail lingered on a thistle blossom. And over where a puddle had formed from a leaking garden hose, several monarchs or perhaps lookalike viceroys had gathered, sipping moisture, while a red admiral hovered in hesitation directly above them. She had flitted over, to satiate her thirst, from one of her host plants, the stinging nettle.
On our coneflowers, I saw a painted lady and what I believed to be a pearl crescent. Then when I took a walk through the longer grass, I saw several of the skipper species, but they are much smaller, more flighty, leaving my capability of catching them, for proper identification, on the ever-growing side of impossible.
August and the early weeks of September I know will bring the monarchs by the dozen, as they seem to gather in great numbers along the Tobermory peninsula and pass this way on their long flight to Mexico where they winter.
The monarch does not travel in tight flocks, as do birds in migration. They flit and flutter seemingly in their own mindset. But when they stop each evening to rest through the hours of darkness, they gather in large quantities at the same location to hang with folded wings through wind, rain and storm until the sun dries them out and once again they are on their way in a southerly direction.
Only twice in my life have I been fortunate enough to see one of these resting trees. Once, while in double-digit preteen years, we had a large, beautiful elm tree that majestically stood as a shade tree in the centre of our pasture.
On looking up early one morning, while riding bareback our old horse, Babe, out to get the cows, the tree had turned from solid green to red. It was entirely covered with resting butterflies. But during the morning as the sun warmed the air, they, one by one, flitted away, returning our beautiful vase-shaped shade tree back to its deep-set green.
The second time was later in life; I suspect I was in my mid-60s. I had volunteered to commandeer a riding lawn mower out at the Travis Hall Equestrian Centre. On looking up one sunny morning, just as the air began to warm, I saw a leaf flutter to the ground, then another and another. On looking closer, with an inquiring mind, I discovered that they were not leaves. They were butterflies dropping to sip the sparkling dewdrops from the short-cropped pasture grass below.
When I looked up at the tree again, I realized the west half was entirely covered with resting butterflies. Within the next hour they had all left, much in the same manner as the first.
So flit my thoughts as the west wind lightly blows.
Take care, ‘cause we care.