Butterflies and Asters

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Asters are blooming like crazy right now: Purple Aster, New England Aster, Fleabane. Black-Eyed Susans are done. Touch-Me-Nots are gone. Dandelions? Haven’t seen them. Asters rule the fields these days.

I don’t know my butterflies well. I have thought many a time that I should learn them. I got some exposure to learning them on a trip this summer the butterfly garden at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury. They had a tent full of them with signage to show what was what. I don’t remember squat from that. Poor student, I guess.

The butterflies in the photo above are American Ladies. I had to look that up. I might be able to tell a Viceroy from a Monarch, but don’t trust me too much. I know there is more than one Swallowtail in Vermont. Can’t tell them apart though. But I tell you this: they are just cool-looking.

It is kind of nice to simply not know the names of things. There is real pleasure in being able to look at an insect, or a plant or a bird, and to know its name. To name something is the beginning of getting to know it, to knowing more than just its name. However, there can be just as much joy in simply wondering at a thing, in watching and seeing with ignorant eyes, in being present to observe.

A sunrise does not have a name, but it is beautiful. We can watch the sky change and the clouds trudge along in their pinkness and just feel awe. We do not have to create a name for snow on trees to find it wondrous. So it is with butterflies. I am curious about what they all are, what makes them different, where they go in winter, what flowers they prefer–all of that starts with naming them. But I do not need to name them to find them wondrous. They dance, unnamed, among the asters I might be able to name, and I feel like kid. “That is so cool!” I say aloud. And that is enough.

 

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Wandering Back to the House

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This morning after I saw the kids onto the school bus, I wandered back to the house. I worked at home today and I knew I would have a lot to do. I did not have many hours to accomplish all I needed to accomplish. So I wandered back to the house. Our driveway is about a quarter mile long so wandering is easy anyway. I took to the field, however, looking and listening, taking my time to attend to the duties I have accepted to make a living.

I saw five bluebirds land in a tree, with two chipping sparrows accompanying them. I heard a Canada goose honk in the distance and I wondered if it was alone. I stooped to look at the purple asters, some light purple, some dark purple. I looked under the milkweed for monarch butterfly caterpillars and watched the chaotic flight of one of those orange and black beauties.

The sun came out today for a few minutes this morning, but mostly it was just plain old cloudy. A few ducks flew off, blue wings flashing in the morning’s dimness. A breeze pushed the grass around in waves. I thought of the meadowlarks, so recently singing across this same field. I thought of seeing a crowd of them last October, late migrators stopping by our meadow. No meadowlarks sang today. But for the few cars passing and a handful of crickets, it was quiet.

I got back to the house too soon, of course. I would have been happy to lie down and to watch the clouds, to look for spiders in the goldenrod, to smell the dampness, to watch the ash trees flutter their fading leaves. Reluctantly, I pushed open the door and got to work. I was not too distracted by the glory of the day so I did mange to get things done. I met my obligations, indeed, but I would have preferred to have shunned them today. I feel that way often these days. I want to soak up the world while I can. I don’t want to miss the butterfly that stops to sip at the last touch-me-not. I don’t want to miss the squirrel squirreling acorns.

Each day passes and I miss most of it. We all do. We complain when the days are cloudy, but the cloudy days are as full of wonder as the sunny days. I have to choose to pay attention if I want to see it. I have to choose to be a part of the world, rather than to just watch. I have to choose to wander.

Morning Dew

Mornings these days are covered in dew.  The grass–wet.  The flowers–wet.  Everything is wet.  My son’s jacket was left out last night.  I found it after my morning run, soggy as the rest of it.  The field is dewy and filled with spider webs.  The whole stretch of it is filled with webs.  They drip with dew and as the sun angles low across the world, they shine.  Looking out in the early hours I can see them hanging between stalks of aster and milkweed and goldenrod.

Web Hanging in the Morning Dew

Web Hanging in the Morning Dew

This morning Venus dangled in the sky like a jewel.  The wind stirred the fog over the river.  The asters, closed for the night, bent in the breeze.  The world woke.  And I ran out into it and back.  And I felt alive.  And the sun rose over the beauty of it all.

Asters, September

Asters, September

And there we have a September morning.