Posted by: Betsy Devany | July 29, 2010

Searching for Butterflies

Whenever I work in my gardens, go for a walk, or play outside with my granddaughter, I look for butterflies to photograph. If a flicker of yellow or orange flits past me, I run for my camera, hoping. Have the butterflies arrived?  Might one linger on top of a flower long enough for me to capture it in a photograph? What does their arrival mean to me?

By the time I return with camera in hand, the bright colors have disappeared, and I begin to wonder if my imagination is playing tricks on me. Yet, I do not give up. I continue to wait for their arrival and instead, focus on the insects invading our yard: bees, wasps, beetles, mosquitos, and pincer bugs. Just to name a few. This has surprised me, as typically, I abhor bugs. I do not want to touch them, nor do I want them to land and crawl on me.  They destroy my gardens and are obsessed with the scent of my skin. Ticks cling to me as if I were a magnet. And last summer, bees built an underground nest beneath my front garden. Not knowing this, I was happily weeding early one evening when a swarm of bees flew from their hole and attacked me.  As I ran screaming for safety, three followed me into the house. My face was swollen for days.

Last month I visited my nine-year-old nieces in Idaho, who are fascinated by bugs. And rocks. Mostly, bugs. I put aside my fear and disdain for insects and saw them through the eyes of a child. Through my camera, I became fascinated by these tiny creatures. And that change grew out of seeing the tiniest details. The way some insects’ eyes look like an alien’s. How they scratch at their heads with one of their legs while resting on a flower. How hard they work. How comical and cartoonish they appear. How they court and mate in similar patterns to humans.

As in all well-written stories, details are what bring the pages to life for a reader. They allow us to go deeper into the story, tugging at us until we unconsciously slip through the pages and into the world we are reading about. As I followed the insects with my nieces in Idaho, I felt as if I was falling, and being pulled, into a world I had never visited: a world of the tiniest of creatures from another planet. The details sparked my interest. They drew in me, and surprisingly, made me yearn for more.  This desire reminded me of how I feel upon reading the final page of a well-written novel. (A good book leaves you satisfied at the end, yet sad. Sad, because you don’t want the book to end. You want to linger with the character, remaining in their world.) These are the books I covet; lined up on my shelf where I see them early every morning as I settle down to write.

And so, while I wait for the butterflies to arrive, I photograph bugs, still unsure why I am compelled to follow them. Perhaps, there is a story there. A character longing for my attention. All I know is that I will follow the insects as long as I am inspired to do so. Until the pieces fall into their places. Until I understand why a small bee captured my attention for thirty minutes. Why I let my dinner get cold while I photographed a cricket couple in the pouring rain, clinging to a daylily. Why I cry at the sight of dragonflies chasing each other in the early evening, their bodies zipping over my head.

I have opened my eyes to the world of bees and beetles and dragonflies, following the advice quoted on an Idaho shopping bag: “Do one thing each day that scares you.” And that I have done, never knowing how much pleasure I would get in return.


Responses

  1. I love your pictures. Beautiful colors and details.
    Today in my garden I saw a red bird, two butterflies and a dragonfly.
    I think that I’ll bring my camera along tomorrow!

    • Thanks, Kathie!
      Glad to hear you are enjoying your garden! We have a new family of Carolina Wrens. I get mesmerized watching the momma catch food to feed her young babies.

  2. Betsy- your insect pictures are amazing- truly beautiful- especially love the bees carrying their burden!


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