“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.”
From Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams
A flicker of wings in sunlight drew my attention to a branch fifteen feet off the ground. For ten or fifteen minutes I pointed my camera up, up, up and shot this butterfly from different angles, zooming in a bit, and then further still. I believe this is a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis), though I welcome correction. I am not typically drawn to photographing insects, primarily because at some absolutely mysterious point in my life I developed an irrational fear of having small birds and bugs zoom toward me. I suppose it is the lack of control that I dislike. Shocking, right?
I have held this fear (and developed Ninja-like reflexes for hummingbird-ducking and the like) for at least a decade. Hard to fight what you can’t see though: two summers ago a wasp stung my breastbone and for an entire night I felt like someone was holding a burning cigar to my flesh. I spent a long night holding an ice pack on my chest. The Great Stinging occurred at China Lake, where my maternal relatives have had a family camp for nearly a century (and where hubby and I owned a camp for a few years, because really what better way to lose money then to quickly buy and sell real estate. But I digress).
I’m sure that night was memorable for the neighbors who were out at their campfire. One moment they were enjoying a fairly routine evening, and the moment next Amanda is yelling and ripping her t-shirt off. Thank goodness I was already headed toward my grandmother’s camp when this occurred, as she took care of me with her usual intensity and grace.
Unlike the demon wasp that descended upon me sight-unseen and nearly murdered me, I can see the hummingbirds and dragonflies coming. (Actually, the wasp was in my shirt, I think, so I’m not sure there was so much descending going on as there was lurking and whatnot.) Moreover, they aren’t likely to cause me the type of harm that requires steady application of ice for hours upon hours. But still I crouch and cower. My sister has seen this. Our friends down the road have seen this. I own it. It’s the least of my flaws, really. Just this evening I had my husband choking on his dinner while I did the crouch-and-cower on the back deck.
Anyway, when it comes to insects, I suppose I am particularly interested in butterflies thanks to Barbara Kingsolver’s 2012 novel Flight Behavior. I listened to her read this novel in the spring of 2013 while I drove to Presque Isle and back for work. Her voice is thick and sweet and her tone is calm and her prose is exceptional. I have read nothing of hers that I haven’t liked, yet it seems that this is one of her finest. Kingsolver’s website describes the novel as “a heady exploration of climate change, along with media exploitation and political opportunism that lie at the root of what may be our most urgent modern dilemma.” Go to http://www.kingsolver.com FMI. Much more simply, the book is about a woman and butterflies, and it is absolutely worth reading.