I had wanted to write about this elegant, fluttering creature for a couple of weeks. Whenever I arrived at work, there it would be, tremulous in the air: a black and yellow butterfly winding through the flowers, dipping below tree branches, calculating air currents on wings shimmering with colored dust.
It chose not to fly too high, nor was its range too wide. The little patch of front garden was acreage enough. It chose not to roam. And why would it? This was prime real estate, with everything that would tempt a butterfly: shade, sun; growing, flourishing things to rest upon and drink from. It must have been a lonely existence – I never say any other butterflies. But perhaps it was of a metaphysical turn of mind.
And for a while, I saw it every morning. It was a fine welcome to the work day.
Then, when I no longer saw it, though I was disappointed I was not too terribly surprised: I just figured that it had discovered some foilage more to its fancy.
However, this afternoon, as I was walking up the path to our front door, I did see it again: and although it was no longer flying its wings were fully outstretched – as if it was challenging or objecting to its final moments of life – pinned neatly to the concrete, its decease on full display. It lay so flat on the ground, it seemed to have merged with the stones: trapped inside its molecules, like the colors weeping into stained glass.
The sight of this pretty thing, reduced to nothing more than a piece of highly colored tissue paper saddened me terribly. It had greeted me every day. it never seemed to be in a hurry. It was good enough to wear tails every day. What had happened to it? (Frankly, I suspect Princess.)
I peeled it off the pathway, so that its delicate corpse would not be damaged by people lacking the dignity of thought to notice something beautiful lying at their feet.
So. Et in Arcadia ego, Papilio polyxenes.