Tag Archives: Butterflies

See My Wings

On my recent cycling and hiking forays into the local canyons, I have been graced with the presence of hundreds of gorgeous, enormous Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.  Such amazing creatures!  Utterly vulnerable, yet mighty and magnificent in their beauty and flight.  I reached into the memory of my butterfly collecting days (God forgive me) and my first experience of seeing a butterfly wing under a microscope.  That these stunning creatures can fly on flimsy wings astonishes me.  They embody such a rare combination: beauty and strength and humility.  With no worry for their future, with no thought of the impossibility of them against the world, they fly and fly, in spite of the skeptic.  This poem grasps at the metaphor of a butterfly’s flight to contemplate the concepts of beauty, introspection, the flight of the human soul, and the finding of hope, faith, and trust in this life.  I hope you enjoy it.

SEE MY WINGS

Look closely
at my wings,
carefully,
do not touch,
scrutinize
up close
with the microscope of your brain
and see,
see scale upon scale
in row upon row,
the most exquisite tapestry
known:
orange and blue
spots and whorls
blending
into one another;
yellow and black
fields and stripes,
veined,
coursing
under Sun’s heat
and tiny flutterings
that flash beauty unabashed and unaware,
that lift on wing
into apparent invisibility
of air and sky,
of breath and life,
of trust
implausible and true.

Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.

Life Ethic

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As a boy I collected butterflies. I hunted them, killed them, and mounted them in an impressive display case. I knew their names, their habitats, their habits. Over 100 species. Unhappily, worms destroyed my entire collection. I see now that my youthful intention had been to capture the butterflies’ beautiful essence. I have outgrown my need to capture butterflies. I am content to view them alive and free, awed by their living beauty.

Working in the yard one day I watched my son Brian, then 9 (now 26), chasing a butterfly with a homemade pillowcase net. “I caught it!” he exclaimed. I held my breath as he peered into the net to examine his prize. He soon released the butterfly to live another day. A smile of wonder lingered on his face. I breathed a relieved sigh to see him possess the maturity I had lacked at his age. I had taught him to love beauty. And he had learned. Learned to love beauty without needing to clutch at it, control it, kill it, and mount it on a board, only to lose it in the process. He had learned a Life Ethic. Here is the poem I wrote about that occasion.  (Happy birthday Brian.)

LIFE ETHIC

“I caught it! I caught it!” cried the boy
over my weed-whacker whir
after waving his pole-clamped pillowcase
across the sky.
Two wide eyes and a victory smile
raced to the porch where
two trembling hands
coaxed the delicate creature
through the screened bug-box door.
A bundle of awe,
the boy sat still and stared
at this astonishing bringing-together
of color and form,
at this life.
Father watched from the garden rows,
remembering his own youth’s hunt
for small, helpless prey,
whose fate was to rot
with a pin through the thorax,
and a tag with a name and a date.
But the magical fluttering rainbows had faded
fast behind their showcase.
“Nice catch, son,” father admired
with a pat and a ruffle.
“What are you going to do with him?”
“Well, I think I’ll watch him for a while, and
then I’ll let him go.”
Good boy, father sighed, as
a boy released his heart’s hold and
a captive rainbow again
graced the sky.

(I took the above photo of a Milbert’s Tortoise Shell in 2007 on the banks of Duck Lake in the high Uinta Mountains of Utah.)

Fly

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I watched a battered Tiger Swallowtail fly awkwardly from flower to flower, clinging precariously from its remaining feet, its tails cracked and broken.  How sad, I thought, that this usually stunning butterfly has lost its beauty.  Only later did it occur to me that the swallowtail had lost nothing of real beauty.  It lived on, though battered by storms, by would-be predators.  What it had lost in glamour it had gained in strength and nobility.  And it still commanded the air.  It still indulged in the sweetness of life.  This poem celebrates the swallowtail.

FLY

Today you limp
on air:
wings faded,
edges serrated,
tails broken off.
Still, flowers
beckon
you to push awkwardly on,
to cling with three barbed feet.
Uncurl your coil
to taste the sweetness
of the flowers
today.

Sing To Me

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During a separation some years ago, I often wondered if life were worth living.  I was not suicidal, but I lacked a desire to live.  Lying in my bed in the dark of night, I would whisper to the ceiling, to the universe, Give me a reason to live.  Of course, there are many reasons to go on living in spite of our physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.  Listing them is an easy exercise.  But in suffering’s crucible these reasons can be hard to discern, let alone appreciate.  In this poem I identify a few reasons that just merely hoping for gave me an ounce of strength to go on living and caring, to arise with each new day, during a lonely and unhappy time.

SING TO ME

Give
me a reason
to live.

Smile at me softly.
Sing me a melody.
Touch your lips to mine.
Receive my song.
Condescend.

Give
me a reason
to live.

(I took the above photograph of a Milbert’s Tortoise Shell in September 2015 at Butterfly Lake in Utah’s High Uinta Mountains.)

Life Ethic

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To me, the butterfly is the most beautiful of all the earth’s creatures.  To me, the butterfly represents the height of beauty, virtue, and innocence.  Still, I once hunted butterflies.  I collected one of every species I could find.  I knew their names, colors, diets, habitats, and flight patterns.  (I never knew their Latin names.)  I collected them, as I understand now, in an attempt to grasp and bring into myself their beauty.  Of course, over time they disintegrated into dust.  Now I thrill to watch them fly.  Now I understand that I cannot find beauty by killing it and displaying it on a wall.  Beauty exists outside of us in creatures like butterflies, and arises from within us as we are kind and true.  This poem is about my son’s choice, from the beginning, to let the butterflies live.

Life Ethic

“I caught it! I caught it!” cried the boy
over the weed-whacker whir
after waving his pole-clamped pillowcase
across the sky.
Two wide eyes and a victory smile
raced to the porch where
two trembling hands
coaxed the delicate creature
through the screened bug-box door.
A bundle of awe,
the boy sat still and stared
at this astonishing bringing-together
of color and form,
at this life.
Father watched from the garden rows,
remembering his own youth’s hunt
for small, helpless prey,
whose fate was to rot
with a pin through the thorax,
and a tag with a name and a date.
But the magical fluttering rainbows had faded
fast behind their showcase.
“Nice catch, son,” father admired
with a pat and a ruffle.
“What are you going to do with him?”
“Well, I think I’ll watch him for a while, and
then I’ll let him go.”
Good boy, father sighed, as
a boy released his heart’s hold and
a captive rainbow again
graced the sky.

Chapter 14: No Trespassing

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–A butterfly graces equally the idyllic mountain meadow and the urban flower box.–

On a cedar fence post near Rabbit Lane an old sign announces “No Trespassing.”  The letters were burned or carved into the worn and weathered plank.  The sign has been cracked by the black head of a rusting iron nail driven into the cedar post.  The sign has long ago lost any intimidating aspect, and it now resembles the endearing smile of a gap-toothed old man. Continue reading