In the spring I plant morning glories. Heavenly blue is the name on the seed packet, and they certainly are all of that! I hope they will begin to flower in the summer. But, it is autumn when they reach their most beautiful.
Some years I get the seeds tucked away in the dirt nice and early. They have taken over whole fences at times! When I am not careful enough in my placement, they have taken over other plants with their exuberant tendrils. Not so good.
Some years, I am late and so are the flowers. This year was somewhere in between early and late. I planted the seeds and I waited. The vines curled upward. The delicate heart shaped leaves multiplied. I had hope.
I waited for the first sign of a flower in June. Nothing and nothing and nothing….
The days sort of melted and meandered. I lost track of their comings and goings.
Until I found myself in a gentle clear morning in October. However did it come to be October?! And Now December?! 31st no less?! I think Dobby and Jack must have done something to the calendar. Yes, that must be it.
Lately, a young buck in velvet is spending his dawn hours at the western edge of an eastern wood. Our silent paths cross often.
A doe and her fawn step gingerly to the lake as the cranes search for their breakfast.
Crossing and more crossing of paths.
And, the feathers! I have lost count of them. There has never been a feather season with so many gifts, of all shapes and sizes. A feather is a lot like a leaf. The one is as unique to the bird as the other is to the tree… as a wing is to a butterfly..
This year some of the wings have come as grounded things.
Once upon a time in early June…
…the caterpillars arrived by mail.
For a week they ate their weight in food and then some. They ate and ate….and ate. They grew and grew….and grew. They were very much like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Clearly, he did his research!
One day the caterpillars climbed to the tippy top of their tiny home and each one made their very plump form into a jolly letter J. Within hours, the J that they were, had disappeared. Now, they were each closed up tight in a chrysalis of their own creation.
It didn’t look like much, this simple chrysalis. For a week there was nothing much to see or to do. Waiting. Lots of waiting. For me and for them, although I suspect they were doing far more important things with their solitary time than I was.
Then, one by one the chrysalides turned darker. It is when they have reached their most colorless moment that they unfold into the light….
…behold a butterfly…
Oh, what a miracle to see a butterfly unfold! Their wings are soft and crumpled at first, like a blanket fresh from the wash. Right away they instinctively climb upwards to a safe place. Then they wait some more. Their wings slowly straighten, dry out and become strong. It takes from a few minutes to a few hours as they ready themselves to be what they already are within.
They begin to play in a gentle flapping way that is not quite a flutter. That will come in due time.
Over the next three to four days the painted ladies were taken outdoors to be set free among the flowers. Hot days sent a few of them soaring into the sunshine. Some settled in the shade. Most of them flew away…
The first time I tried to let her go, she fell from the flower and struggled to right herself. I reached gently all the way down to the pine straw. She grabbed hold of my finger and let me lift her up. She spread her wings and crawled up my arm to see what she could see from my shoulder. But, she did not fly away. She was definitely not ready to go yet.
After a few more tries on the days that followed, I realized that for whatever reason, she was unable to fly. She could flutter like crazy. And, she loved to curl her proboscis to eat and explore. But, there would be no flying for her.
So, I set out to make her as comfortable as I could. I gathered fresh flowers and leaves for her each morning and spritzed them lightly with water. I made her home at the heart of where I spend a great deal of time, the kitchen. How quickly we learned each other’s ways. I knew all of her favorites as she became a sweet part of June floating into July and on into August…
Gilda means messenger. That was her name. I also called her Miss Butterfly or even Miss B. She liked to be held, especially in the afternoons. She adored fresh watermelon to eat, and would “nod” her antennas at me in a cheerful hello of sorts. Seriously. She did.
She could flutter like the dickens although her wings couldn’t take her skyward. I would often reach in and place my finger nearby. Sometimes she would flutter with excitement. Sometimes she would pay me a never you mind and simply drift back to sleep.
Mostly, she would climb onto my waiting hand as though she simply wanted to be held for a while. So, I would. There we would sit, Miss B and me, quiet and still, with her at rest in my hand. She slowed me down in the most lovely of ways.
I offered her as many fruits as I could think of! Her absolute favorite was watermelon. And, so that’s what she and I settled on. Oh, how she loved watermelon! There was a brief stint with bananas. But, after she scared me something awful and got stuck in them….no more bananas.
Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet. I think that’s how she came to know me. She knew the taste of my skin. Perhaps she learned that she could trust me. Maybe.
At 9 weeks old, she moved more slowly each day. I wished that she could have flown but her gentle life was so full of light. She graced my days for three full months! That is a long life for a Painted Lady and I’m grateful for every moment of it that she shared with me.
I still miss her. Cutting her watermelon. Letting it come to room temperature. It startled her if it was too cold. Picking her up and placing her gently on the edges so she could taste that it was there. The simple joy of seeing her eat. The way her antenna would bob. And holding her for a time, just because…
Occasionally she tickled me with her tiny feet. Mostly my skin couldn’t feel her in my hand. My heart always felt her though. Love is like that I think.
So the hot dry summer days kept on.
With them I watched for the morning glories to form and blossom. Nothing. I had all but given up hope for them this season. I had resigned myself to the notion that the green heart shaped leaves would have to be enough this year. There would be other seasons, I told myself.
I thought forward to next spring, planning ahead and determined to get the seeds in the ground nice and early…
Then, in early October as I set out on a morning walk under misty skies, there she was…Heavenly Blue…her light shining from within as soulfully as Miss Butterfly.
I have written on this over and again. Now, here we are on the very last day of the year. It’s time…
This story took months to live and much wandering beneath trees to write. I don’t know why the morning glories didn’t bloom more this year. I don’t know why Miss Butterfly couldn’t fly and spent her life with me instead. I don’t know a lot of things about this year that is nearly over. I only know this – One can make all the difference…
A flower full of light….a butterfly full of hope….Love is like that I think…
May you be safe and well and may you have light and hope.
ellie894 December 31, 2020