Poor Butterfly

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.

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10 responses to “Poor Butterfly

  1. What a beauty. When I sit on my front porch butterflys and sometime dragonflies come and visit.You write so beautifully. thanks

  2. Beautiful words in memory of a beautiful creature. The butterfly has such perfect symmetry, even now.

  3. So beautiful, so ephemeral. Looking out my kitchen window, I noticed that my huge clump of head high pampas grass was filled with white moths. They wove in and out of the grass stems and filled the column like water in a cup. It was the most beautiful thing. We had a really cold night, and they were gone.

  4. Oh wow, poor little guy! SO beautiful. Good for you for saving his body!

  5. That was beautifully written. I enjoyed every word. even though it was sad in the end.

  6. oh my god look how beautiful he looks there – even though he is no longer alive.As always — you write so beautifully, Aubrey.I also like that you moved his delicate little body. It always makes me so sad to see dead things laying somewhere, especially when it's in places where the body will get damaged by people walking or traffic or whatever.

  7. This morning I noticed that the butterfly had been swept away by the gardener. I'm so glad I took the time to write about its untimely demise. We live on in each other's memories, yes?
    What a sentimental fool I am!

  8. Amazing photograph, with the leaves of various hues to either side.
    I think you should draw it…capture it in flight, full of life.

  9. Audobon Field Guide identifies your fluttering friend to be a Giant Swallowtail, aka, "Orange Dog": "…sometimes considered a citrus pest and subjected to massive spraying… (Citrus in CA much? Could be a clue to G.S.'s demise) …It is capable of flying long distances … Adults take nectar from lantana, orange blossoms … The Giant, the Thaos, and the female (yes!) Tiger Swallowtails are the largest in No. America.Methinks your G.S. enjoyed fashion sparring with you.

  10. Beautiful! *hugs you gently*

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