Photographing butterflies is difficult. Somedays I just can’t get the shutter speed right. The result is Victorian Fairy photographs—spots of light like Tinkerbell dancing in a meadow. Butterflies, in the woods, in meadows, in gardens, represent beauty and delight. We plant gardens to bring their joy into our lives. Our lives are much like the lives of butterflies, ephemeral, susceptible to the vicissitudes of our environment.
We have our own stages of life. When you are a caterpillar, you long for wings. You don’t recognize the dangers of birds and other insects as you devour the leaves or fruit around you. Your survival, in part, relies on the environment your parents have laid you in. You are a mouth, devouring your surroundings, hungry for the future. When you emerge from the cocoon of adolescence, you are eager to spread your wings and lift off into the sun. Some of us will live our whole lives in one meadow. Some of us will migrate great distances, but return to lay our eggs in the area where we were hatched. We all face dangers. Some of us will be eaten by birds. Some of us will be blown off course and battered by the elements. Our bedraggled wings will keep us from flight. Some of us will survive with the help of others. Some of us will stretch our wings and find the strength within ourselves. Yet the fluttering of our wings affects those around us.
We do not flap our wings in isolation. A few careless beats can cause a snowstorm. It may not be the butterfly in Brazil that causes the tornado in Texas, but the butterfly in Texas beating against a jar of impositions. We spread our wings as individuals in a community. The shadows overlap the caterpillars, the cocoons and the frail wings of the elderly. Our flights cross those of others. Do we dance together in joy? Or do we wallow alone in regret? What is the reverberation of our wings?
In reality, our lives are longer than butterflies and often our appetites remain constant—we devour new knowledge, new experiences, new relationships. We extend our wings and persist. Even when our wings are frail and barely beating, we unfurl them in the sunshine and relax among the flowers.