Tag Archives: butterflies

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!

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Images from the week.

deer at coast 8-26-15My grandson drove over to move some free dirt that had to be dumped in the driveway because a Bobcat loader was still here blocking the way to the backyard.  I should have taken a picture of him shoveling for me, but instead I’m stealing one of the pictures he took later on, when he hiked at the coast in the evening and saw dozens of deer on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. I know this one doesn’t look real, but it is.

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Zinnias volunteered in my garden this summer, mostly the orange trailing variety, but also one tall yellow specimen, which a butterfly visited just as I was getting out of my car — I asked him to stick around while I dropped my bags on the ground so I could take his picture, and he fluttered back and forth, but re-landed enough times that I was successful.

Yes, I am ashamed of all that basil flowering in the background. I told you I haven’t been cooking!

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I attended a Vigil service at a nearby parish for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Old Calendar. A Slavic custom that was new to me was the greeting of their bishop with an offering of bread and salt. After he tore off and dipped a piece, he offered a bite to the young woman holding the platter.

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On my way home the moon was so big and bright, I had to stop and take its picture, and now I’m hunting for a moon phase widget to put on my blog site.

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