Tag Archives: butterflies

Fava beans, and moving on.

It’s convenient that my next-door neighbor has gone camping this weekend, because I need his yard waste can. I forgot to ask him but I am pretty sure he will be okay with me using it to load up with all of the garden clippings I’ve collected in just two days. He has his dragster parked long-term and rent-free on a few inches of my driveway so he likes to feel that he is doing things for me, too.

The fava beans were a big job! Yesterday I cut all the pods off the 30-something plants that grew from two packets of seeds I’d bought online. I might have started the harvest earlier if it hadn’t been so rainy. As it was, I got caught in a surprise shower in the  middle of the process. Before the last week of rain the beans were overflowing their planter, thus:

But by the time I got to picking them, they had grown a few more inches and were  getting infested with insects and maybe disease, and were just a mess generally. Here are a few shots showing how the project developed over the day. By the evening I was sitting under the wisteria shelling the creamy green beans out of their pods, which I dropped on to the patio at my feet. Just the plants and the pods of these Vicia faba — also known as broad beans or horse beans — filled most of my own large green waste bin.

It was slow going, but I shelled a couple of quarts of beans. That didn’t make much of a dent in the tubful, and I needed to do some other kinds of work still before bed; the thought occurred to me that I could offer them on a county freesharing Facebook group I belong to, so I took pictures and posted them, and this morning  a woman came and took half of the remainder. Tomorrow another member is coming and maybe she will clean me out. I could eat all the beans myself eventually, but I have so many things needing doing right now besides shelling favas… like cooking the ones I did shell!

While I was waiting for the lady I thought I’d do a little deadheading – ha! I ended up spending hours on the front garden, yanking out the poppies that want to cover every other plant, shearing one wallflower bush, cleaning up the irises, weeding. Oh, yes, and taking pictures of pretty flower pairings, or trios, and the asparagus in its ferny state with Johnny Jump-ups. I dragged the neighbor’s can over to my driveway and started piling in the green and flowery trimmings.

A Painted Lady butterfly was drinking at the chive flowers, and making me think that she was showing off for the camera. Unlike most butterflies, she did not flutter away as I drew near, but did pirouettes, and flew from bloom to bloom striking different poses. Perhaps the strong drink was making her lose all inhibitions. All the while I slowly came closer…  and then she came closer to me, spread her wings on the flower right in front of me and let me watch and admire her at her work.

Her wings are a bit tattered, I can see now in the closeups. I wonder if a bird tried to make lunch out of her… Speaking of birds, I think I may have made friends with a certain chickadee. I will tell you about him later; right now I have to head to rest and sleep so that I can tackle more garden tasks tomorrow.

 

The cabbage white lurches honestly.

FLYING CROOKED

The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

-Robert Graves

First I laughed out loud, and I know I was laughing at myself, because the poet had already communicated to me in the poem what he is quoted as saying at the bottom of the page of Poem A Day Volume 3: “Robert Graves discussed this poem in an unposted letter of 1933; he lamented that scientists ‘fail to understand that the cabbage-white’s seemingly erratic flight provides a metaphor for all original and constructive thought.’”

This particular cabbage white of whom I found a photo seems to be resting on a flower very similar to the one my recent honeybee was drinking from.

A Breath of Wings

This poem at albits seems to me to describe the ways of a butterfly better than anything I’ve ever read. I used the word capture instead of describe at first, but that word sounds too violent for what the poet has accomplished, in engaging respectfully with such an otherworldly and mysterious fellow creature.

Recently I listened to Antonio López talk about what it means to have a technological perspective on our world. He self-consciously follows the thought of George P. Grant in noting that just by being inhabitants of this culture we live in, we tend to absorb and display a somewhat fragmented and fragmenting attitude toward the people and things around us, failing to see them as whole beings, seeing everything as “piles of stuff” that we may use or manipulate or control at will. He wants us to see the connectedness of everything, and to respect the interiority of each creature, and “let be.”

Some have said that for a writer, “everything is material,” meaning, everything we see, whatever happens to us throughout our days, appears to us as something to write about, something we long to distill into words so that we can know it better and share it with other humans.

It occurs to me that to have this attitude as my first impulse may be an example of this less than fully human, technological perspective; I immediately impose my thoughts and presuppositions on the thing or person before me. But that habit works against my deeper and purer self. If I want to be fully present with the world, with the people and things in it, I need to restrain my mind’s impulsive and constant forming of sentences, at least long enough to let my heart meet the heart of the “other,” and know communion.

Perhaps that is what this poet was able to do when he met a butterfly. It would explain how he was able to catch, not just the first thoughts that came to mind, but this divine vision to share with us.

A BREATH OF WINGS

Walking out with the trash
I saw a butterfly flash by

In a wink and a bright splash
Of light. It made me wish

The yard were lined in rich
Leafy plants that might catch

Her eye in the search for a place
To settle. How could I guess

That she’d choose a blank wedge
Of sidewalk next to my garage

Where grey concrete met brick
And no perch seemed attractive

To a breath from delicate wings.
That’s how I saw her, as a trick

Of nature: two fans of gauze
Waving crazily in the evening air,

Nothing more, nothing else there
But color that seemed to disappear

As she lit. What remained was a stick
On the ground with a flat brown flag:

The wings had closed up tight.
Was she taking a nap, I thought,

Or holding her breath in fear
Of me standing there, a sag

In my face, the blank mind caught,
Transfixed in a magical nowhere

Between this–and the next–flight.

-Albert Salsich

I like the way the sentences sometimes don’t match the lines of the couplets exactly, so that the rhythm of the poem mimics the way a butterfly swoops and flutters, “waving crazily,” and then surprises you when it comes to an abrupt stop on a flower or a sidewalk. It is a good one to read aloud.

The beholding of a butterfly was a gift of grace to the poet, and through his labor of love I’ve been doubly blessed: Through this vicarious meeting I have an expanded appreciation of butterflies, and also the joy of encountering an uplifting poem. I’m afraid to say much more about all the words — I did once write on words for this insect — and the form of the poem because I will get carried away in enthusiastic speculation and wonder, and never make it outside to look at more butterflies.

I hope you all might see a butterfly today!

butterfly-9-16-16