Float like a Butterfly

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. 

Egypt, Middle Kingdom – Butterfly Amulet . The Met Museum Copyright free.

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 –

Sources
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.

Queensland Museum. Garden butterflies

Thanks to local Butterfly Expert Helen Schwenke for help with identification

Recent articles in local papers

Lemon Migrant butterfly migration underway

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All text and photos in this blog created by Meg

(Unless labelled otherwise)

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp. Copyright © under Australian Law.

Silence for the Wonder-worker: Weekly Photo Challenge

What’s that in the Mandarin tree – so silent and stoic?

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After my online search … it’s the chrysalis of a Citrus Swallowtail Butterfly. 

Hanging from a silken girdle, a secret transformation is underway at this nymphal stage. Most of the larval cells have had to die before the adult structures (of the butterfly) can take shape. What survive from their breakdown into ‘caterpillar soup‘ are imaginal cells – one for each adult body part – all ready to carry on and complete the metamorphosis over time.

Will a male or female butterfly emerge? The female of the species has more colour.

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The main character in Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Butterfly” is a male butterfly intent on finding a wife amongst the blossoming flowers. He dismisses one flower after another, ending up old and alone. It’s not a story I’d tell to kids because of the way females are portrayed. The main character is so conceited and superior. However, he does get his comeuppance – caught late in the summer by a human, he’s pinned to a board – ironically ending up as an object in a display case. (Surely people don’t do this in this day and age?)

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But back to another photo of the chrysalis. (I have no idea if this is a mite in the foreground.)  It can take from one – six months for the butterfly to finally emerge,  depending on the weather.

And to think one of the wonders of the natural world is happening in my backyard right now!

Silence

 

Sources: The Butterfly in Haugaard, Eric Christian. The Penguin Complete Fairy Tales and Stories of Hans Andersen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin, 1974:782.

Identification thanks to – The Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour. Papilio Aegeus. Accessed 18 Jan 2018.

Jabr, Ferris, How Does a Caterpillar turn into a Butterfly? in Scientific American, August 10, 2012. Accessed 18 Jan 2018.

All text and photos by Meg.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Graceful Nature: Weekly Photo Challenge

When I wonder about ‘graceful,’ images of dreamy movement and soft curves come to mind.

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Sometimes graceful movement is so fast – like a butterfly. I have to follow till it rests. Standing very still, I hold my breath and ‘click.’

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Other times, a curve catches my eye. As I stare, I sense some infinitesimal movement within … an unfolding.

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and then … there’s my own, walking times, when what I see makes me feel infinitesimal … and my heart leaps!

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Sometimes I go about pitying myself, And all the while I am being carried across the sky by beautiful clouds. (Ojibway poem)

Here’s another graceful image from a story that I tell –

Out in the cattle kraal, a silver cord descended from high in an African night sky, down, down … to its dusty centre. By the light of the moon, a crouching man keeping watch behind the thorn-bush fence, saw his black and white, speckled cattle move apart. Hearing singing, he looked up and there, round the shining cord, he spied a line of beautiful women floating down, one after the other. Singing softly, they spiralled down till they touched the ground. All wore wondrous clothes and ornaments which flickered in the moonlight and carried a calabash held against one hip. Then they walked silently, gracefully, to an animal and murmured soothingly as they sat. Sing together again, they steadily milked his black and white cows.

As a child, Laurens van der Post was told this story about women of the sky by a black woman –servant. It’s on pages 132-4 of his book “ The Heart of the Hunter.” If you want to hear my version of the whole story, you’ll have to come to Storytelling Unplugged: the Meetup group I organise, next first Friday of the month!

Graceful

All text (except those in italics) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License