Sunday, January 31, 2010

In Which I Am in Awe of Butterflies

I have always enjoyed watching butterflies flit about my backyard. They seem so otherworldly, so not-quite-robust-enough for nature, so ephemeral and ethereal that if you breathe too closely near them, they might disappear without a trace to prove they'd been there. They seem far too delicate for nature, which can be so gritty and dirty.

Last night, I watched The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies, which had been broadcast on PBS' Nova earlier this week. The Nerdy Scientist was captivated with their beauty and fortitude, and heartbroken with the ease with which they can die. How can something strong enough to fly thousands of miles over 8 weeks be drowned by just a few raindrops? What a poignant reminder of how beautiful, how elusive, how capricious, how amazing nature and life are. What a wonderful reminder of how much we don't know, and how much we still have to learn, how much fun science can be.

And I particularly enjoyed recognizing a kindred spirit, another nerdy scientist who was so worried that the butterflies were not able to make their journey, and was so relieved to finally spot them flying in to rest that he was laughing with delight, giggling with joy, and almost crying with relief. Ahh, we love a scientist entranced with his subject as much as we are with ours.

And I loved the sweet depiction of life in Mexico. Living as close to the border as we do, local news is inundated with problems and stories about crime and border walls and illegal entrants. I love Mexico, I loved living there, I loved traveling there, and I loved how kindly a portrayal of the small Mexican town we saw in the film, where residents eagerly awaited the butterflies' yearly return, celebrating with a big festival when they did. I love the simplicity of the Day of the Dead celebration. That feast has been adopted by my second hometown, but with typical over excess--a huge parade, flame dancers, costumes. The Day of the Dead is about family, quiet recollections, preserving the memories of those gone before us. I loved Angela Garcia in her (machine made) huipil, the food stands, the adorable kids counting butterflies flying overhead in a clear blue sky.

And here is a giant swallowtail (a male, I believe), drying himself last May on my oleander.

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