Living Columns & Blogs

Beauty of nature flies all around us

Thanks to Bobbi Hahn of Hilton Head Island for sharing a story about a butterfly.

Bobbi's writing has been published in the second anthology by Island Writers' Network, "Hilton Headings," and she said the editors have recently chosen several of her essays and poems to be included in the forthcoming third anthology, due out in November. Details:


By Bobbi Hahn

I witnessed a miracle this morning. After I fed and watered the feral cats, I found a Monarch butterfly on the ground. Nearly invisible against brown pine straw and a thick layer of leaves, only the sharply defined black borders and brilliant white circles on the backs of its wings gave it away.

We are on their migration route in the Lowcountry, and I have been seeing these gorgeous creatures hovering above bright flowers for several days now.

Its wings moved slowly back and forth, and it seemed to have trouble standing on its impossibly thin legs. I found a dead one a few days ago and feared this one would share the same fate. But first, I did my best to save it.

I found a small twig and gently encouraged it to climb onto the wood, being careful not to brush its spectacular wings with my hand. I carefully placed it in my bike basket for the short ride home, talking to it all the way. Some people would probably find my behavior strange, but I try to be kind to all living creatures: escorting spiders out of the house on paper towels, etc. However, I draw the line at palmetto bugs (cockroaches to those of you who don't live in the South).

Arriving home, I slowly lifted the twig, but the butterfly couldn't hold on. I quickly held my arm up, and it stepped from the twig onto my sleeve. As I walked across the parking lot toward our condo, I whispered reassurances as it slowly crawled up my arm.

Once inside, I immediately carried my precious cargo out to the deck. After repeating the sliding-the-twig-under-its-legs maneuver, I set the twig on a small glass-top table. I dashed outside and gathered some bright flowers from around the pool, grabbed a magnifying glass, a dish towel and a glass of water from the kitchen and returned to my patient.

I spread the dish towel, arranged the blossoms and set down the twig and butterfly among them. It appeared to be quite listless, still slowly moving its wings. At times, it would fold up its wings and go perfectly still for several minutes. I held my breath until it moved again. I observed it through the magnifying glass. It never attempted to feed on nectar or the water droplets I had placed on some leaves.

An hour passed. It didn't appear to be gaining any strength. I feared it was just a matter of time until it died, especially when it fell over on its head and lay still for an interminable length of time.

I continued talking, complimenting its impressive beauty, saying it needed to rest and gather its strength for the long journey to Mexico.

Another hour passed. It crawled over the flowers and flopped over repeatedly. As I looked at it head-on through the magnifying glass, I quickly put down the glass when I realized that if I was able to see the butterfly in such great detail, I could only imagine how terrifying the view was from the opposite direction.

I had hoped one beautiful purple flower with a deep throat would be especially appealing, but it merely served as an obstacle. Eventually, the butterfly worked its way back to some tiny bright red flowers and began the daunting task of ascending the cluster. Upon reaching the top, it spread its wings wide, as we do in a great stretch. Two forceful wing flaps, and it was suddenly airborne.

Tears came to my eyes as it flew -- so beautiful, so strong -- up against the deep blue sky. I choked out, "Fly, and be free. Godspeed. Have a safe journey." It rose higher, drifting over the pink blossoms of a nearby tree. I watched until it disappeared, tears streaming down my face.

I was surprised by the depth of my feelings for this minuscule insect, so beautifully designed by its creator. And I was in awe of the journey ahead of it. A little piece of my heart is flying today on its way to the mountains of Mexico for a spectacular display.

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