Every year the butterflies come. The very first time I saw them, I thought something was wrong, that somehow the butterflies were disoriented and ended up at the bottom of our gravel driveway by accident. But then, the next year they were back, and the next, and next. From what I can tell, they are Pipevine Swallowtails, a butterfly that frequents the mountains. Whatever kind they are is not as important to me as the butterfly’s behavior and beauty and mystery.
Every late spring or early summer they come. They fly in, land, and then lie there, fluttering their wings. When I walk our dogs, they flit away, hovering near, and wait until we leave before they land once again in their designated spots. Some die right away, lying where they landed, wings spread. Whenever I have to drive out of my driveway, I go slowly, giving them time to disperse, and they do, in a slow lazy dance, as if they really do not, most certainly do not, have time for this human’s antics.
I wonder: Is it a mating place? A meeting place? A birthing place? A dying place? I can’t help but imagine the butterflies have been coming to this one spot for hundreds, thousands?, of years, and the development has not stopped them. I am glad my husband and I have kept our spot as wild as possible. We haven’t landscaped, preferring not to have a “yard.” Our property has plants and flowers that are unique, rare even, and we are careful to honor the ancient quality of where we live. There is an untamed beauty here, things hidden and known, understood and little understood.
Late spring last year when the butterflies came, I picked up a dead specimen. He was perfect, his body still, but the colors, the beauty of him made him still seem alive, as if I only had to touch him and he would lift his wings, flutter them, and then fly away from me. But he couldn’t fly away. He could be all mine, to forever keep. I carefully placed him in the palm of my hand, studied the color and craft of him. Then, I took him inside and laid him among my rocks, feathers, bark, bones, shells, and other mountain things I find. He stayed beautiful for a while, sitting on that shelf, but as time passed, he could no longer sustain such beauty and began to fall apart. I understood I’d done something I should not, and I returned him to his place on the mountain. The wind picked him up and carried him away away away. I watched. I wondered. I said, “Thank you for allowing me to keep you, just for a little while.” More will come. And come again. And again.
And I will wait for them.
The beauties of my mountain are not really mine, yet in a fashion they are. In inspiration’s mystery we find ourselves and our words and art and all the remarkable things we humans can do. It is not ours to keep on a shelf, but to let it find its own place among us, and then we share it in our own ways—we interpret it so that others can come to know and marvel with us.
From me to you I have given you my butterflies (inspiration for this post). What (inspiration) have you for me?