at least one butterfly on that bush -- which is why its nickname is "butterfly
bush." Sometimes someone glamorous, like the Monarch or a Viceroy,
or a wonderful stained-glass-looking fellow whose name I don't even know.
But more often, it is one or more of the common little plain white ones
you see everywhere in the summer -- not more than an inch across. I rarely
go out there without
The butterflies sit on the flowers for a long time. Their wings begin to pulse as they drink, a pulse with each sip -- they put their whole tiny bodies into the task of feeding.
When I was
little, I went through a spate of butterfly collecting. I would mount
them on a board, with pins through their bodies and their wings, and frame
the boards. Once I found a luna moth -- already dead -- its pale green
wings easily seven inches across. The butterflies were lovely in their
frames. But I
Besides. They were dead butterflies. They no longer flew, no longer fluttered over flowers, didn't drink, never again. I stopped collecting them and became content just to see them.
We think of them as delicate, which they are. Our touch on their wings hurts them - their wings are covered with tiny colored scales, and a finger rubs off the scales and injures the wing's ability to lift them in flight. Delicate they are, but most people don't know that butterflies are also very territorial. Often you see two butterflies together, fluttering around each other in the air. You may stop and look, charmed by the sight: it looks like a dance, or a game.
It's no game.
They're not dancing. They're fighting. A butterfly will chase a competitor
out of his yard with every ounce of energy he has. They won't leave one
another alone until one of them is gone. He'll even chase you, if you
get too close: we mist up when a butterfly comes close to us, feel the
power of the
Ah. Nature punctures our romanticism from time to time, which is a fine thing: we would become so sentimental there'd be no living with us. Its prosaic instinct for survival and growth grounds everything. We are in the image of God, but God places us here, in the dirt. Made us animals, too, like the warring butterflies, tied to the earth in a thousand ways. Animals who carry within us the image of our Creator. Not as sweet as we sometimes look, and yet beloved of the One who has given us life.
© 2003 Barbara Crafton
From The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm, e-mail messages sent by Episcopal priest and writer Barbara Crafton. Crafton's eMo's are published in book form by Church Publishing. Visit her Web site at http://www.geraniumfarm.org
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