Over these last few weeks I’ve marvelled at how many butterflies have been around. They flit about the garden like wayward petals. Caper Whites are common here. They tend to tango intensely. (You’ve surely seen them spin together.) While this Common Crow just hovers dreamily … floats along till it finds another resting place.
Some, like the Blue Triangle, are hectic fliers and hard to capture on camera.
The other day, as I waited in the queue at the garden centre, this Meadow Argus sat here so long I began to wonder if it was real. What a beauty!
Out walking in the park just before sunset, this ‘odd leaf’ caught my eye. I’ve since learned it’s an Evening Brown butterfly that prefers to be out at dusk.
When I showed a friend my butterfly photos thus far, she sent this one of a Lemon Migrant in her backyard. They’re found all over Tropical Australia and known for their regular large migrations down the east coast. In February this year there was a butterfly boom after the drought.
I’ve discovered too that North American Monarchs arrived here later than other butterflies, in the 1870’s. Some migrate to warmer areas before winter while many adults stay. Great clusters of them festoon the same trees each year, till the weather warms up in September.
I’ve long thought that a visiting butterfly was a spirit on its way to the next world. The Ancient Egyptians thought so.They also believed caterpillars died (in the chrysalis) and were reborn as butterflies.
There’s an old Irish story which Kevin Crossley-Holland reworked and called “Butterfly Soul.” It goes something like this –
Two farm boys, Tom and Declan have been out in the hills all morning, searching for missing sheep. They give up in the heat of the day and stretch out in the shade of a rock wall. Declan falls asleep while Tom sits, watching the valley and farm below. Declan’s snores get Tom to his feet and just as he bends to shake him awake, a pale butterfly flits out of Declan’s mouth.
Tom stands rooted to the spot, while the butterfly floats down the sleeper’s left side and off down the slope. Curious, the lad follows. He watches it approach the gate, drift upwards past each wooden spar and down the other side.
On it goes, down the track. Tom runs down and climbs the gate. When he lands on the other side, there’s suddenly no sign of the butterfly. Looking around, he notices the long grass by the track. He wades in and swishes through. Yes! He spies it down in the ditch, hovering over a the white skull of a ram. There it lands and teeters the horns.
Tom scrambles closer to get a better look and sees the butterfly fly in one eye socket. Feet in the ditch Tom sits. A couple of crows fly past, cawing. A breeze shakes the grass heads. After a while, he’s rewarded. That same butterfly clambers out of the other empty hole. Flying faster than before, the insect quickly gains height and catching the wind heads back uphill, over the gate and towards the wall.
By the time Tom gets back up the hill, his friend is sitting up, stretching his arms and grins when he sees Tom, “Had an amazing dream!”
“So,,, what did you dream, Declan? ” replies Tom, scraping one foot on a stone.
“I was all by myself and walked for a long, long way hunting for you, Tom, I came upon a railway track. So I jumped along fast from one sleeper to the next. I didn’t know where the line was heading. I kept looking for a place I knew.
At the end of the line, I came to a tall, waving forest where a strong wind bent the trees this way and that. Suddenly, the wind lifted me up and I was blown along a river shining below me. I was flying straight on, the cold wind in my face.
There, on the banks of the shining river was a big, white palace. I flew down to it. It’s big round entrance was without a door, so I stepped inside. There was not a soul around, only the wind roaring through. I moved on through the place and wandered marble halls, one after another. They were all bare. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before!
Then I began to think I was being watched, so I got out of there as quickly as I could and got away, back along the shining river, through the forest, along the the rail line. Then I woke up”
“The dream was wonderful. I felt so good. I saw so much. Everything glowed bright and big. And I was flying!”
“Ah… ” mused Tom. “You felt you were flying, eh? Well, you should have seen what I saw. I saw. I saw a butterfly fly out of your mouth.”
Declan’s jaw dropped, as he stared hard at his friend.
“And … I followed that butterfly as it flew away from you. I watched where it went. Come on, I’ll show you!” pulling Declan to his feet. “This way!”
Tom showed him the bars of the gate, the tall forest of grass, the shining river that was the running ditch and then he pointed at the skull of a long dead sheep.
Declan got up close to it and began to mutter “Holy … Dooley! Oh my…! again and again. Slowly, the two them climbed of the ditch and back up on the track.
“So Declan, ” Tom declared, looking him in the eye. “You might have seen wonders … but what I saw was an even bigger wonder! Do you think anyone will believe us?”
Butterfly You © M.Philp. Adapted from K. Crossley-Holland’s tale “Butterfly Soul’
PS. I’m can’t help chasing butterfies –
CARR, Richard Vaughan. illus. Ann James. The Butterfly: from tiny wingbeat to a tornado. Newtown, NSW, Walker Books Australia. 1996.
‘The Butterfly Soul’ in CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin. (1987) British Folk Tales; New versions. Cambridge, C.U.P.
Thanks to local Butterfly Expert Helen Schwenke for help with identification
Recent articles in local papers
All text and photos in this blog created by Meg
(Unless labelled otherwise)
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp. Copyright © under Australian Law.