Summer’s Last Swallowtails

In the final weeks of September, one of the butterflies emerged with damaged wings. She couldn’t fly, so I kept her in the caterpillar habitat and gave her fresh clippings from the butterfly bush every day.

Swallowtail Sept 21

Sometimes I took her out of the enclosure and carried her around the yard, letting her sample marigolds and lantana and salvia.

Swallowtail Sept 27

When she died, a day or two before her two-week birthday, she had undeniably lived longer than she would have lived in the yard. But was it enough?

Swallowtail Sept 21

Was nectar enough, or did my butterfly regret her flightless wings and unfertilized eggs?

What does a butterfly, or a caterpillar, need from life?

Caterpillar Sept 28

Do they yearn for sunshine and plentiful food? Do they crave happiness? Do they grieve?

Caterpillars August 27

There’s a poem hiding in these questions, but it’s so well hidden that I can’t find where it starts. Not today, anyway. Not with a rainy cold front outside and a miserable cough inside.

Caterpillar Sept 21

My last swallowtail caterpillar molted into a chrysalis yesterday. Now I have twenty-five chrysalises ready for winter.

Caterpillar Oct 15

It’s an interesting idea, sleeping through winter. What if I could simply set my alarm for “spring” and call my blankets a chrysalis? On days like today, cough and all, it seems like a good idea. But what about snow? And holidays? Would I be sad, in the spring, that I had missed them? Would you?

Chrysalis Oct 16

4 thoughts on “Summer’s Last Swallowtails

  1. Sandy October 18, 2015 / 10:24 AM

    Rae,your writing and photos were a poem. Poetry is word pictures and feeling. Your post had both. I loved it.

  2. jeanryan1 October 17, 2015 / 3:13 PM

    I have a hunch that all creatures, other than humans, work with what they have and are in intimate contact with each moment. I envy that as well as their unerring instincts. You gave that butterfly a life she would not have had otherwise. I bet she was fine with it. I bet she lived every moment to the fullest.

    • Rae Spencer November 13, 2015 / 9:38 PM

      I love your phrase “in intimate contact with each moment.” Beautifully said!

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