Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tattered Right Wing

I'm late entering this---written on 9/17/09---

All day yesterday she came in and out of my notice. I doubt I entered hers but admit to wishing so. Again and again she hovered over different flower beds, shrubs, and general green growth in the sunny spots of the backyard. She didn't appear to be drinking nectar, but lit briefly on random green leaves in odd places around the yard---looking for host plants on which to lay her eggs, I presume, though I never was close enough to confirm w/eye-witness. So tenderly did she float and lower over each leaf of choice that it could have been nothing else. Did I imagine her delicate care and safe wishes with each touch? She would die soon. She must have known it. These were her babies. It's the same tenderness with which we look on our grandchildren---our legacy to the world. Perhaps I project.

The thing that was unmistakable was her tattered right wing---the full length of the bottom edge was mangled or missing, including the blue patches. She was a large and beautiful tiger swallowtail but only her left tail was left. (No need to say it, writers---I know what you're thinking---it's just wordplay---somehow I liked the effect of same word twice in one sentence against two meanings.) I wondered what predator she escaped, with what strength, and at what point in her life. A tatter that wide seems likely to have occurred while wing was still folded and wet---maybe in her first few minutes out of chrysalis. How long ago? Has she lived her whole life in tatters? At best, her life span is only about a month.

Last night we had friends for dinner on the deck. (Make that "invited friends to dinner") A large yellow tiger swallowtail butterfly with tattered right wing edges landed on and clung long to the banister, still as a statue. Later she fixed herself to the window on the door. She didn't move when we peered close, and was still there when we turned off the lights after midnight. This morning she was gone. I like to think she chose my window as her final perching place. Another gift imagined, but with the same effect. Gratitude. dkm

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