So I was sitting in my back garden yesterday, reading a fictional book about a real magician and trying assiduously to ignore my little bubble of darkness (see previous posts), when a butterfly flitted along and landed on my leg. I know it was a butterfly and not a moth because it had smooth rather than fuzzy antennae.
I’m not so cognizant of butterflies over here in the UK. In fact the only butterfly I can reliably identify is the Monarch butterfly, which is orange, brown and black with white spots. This one was also orange, brown and black, but the wings were a different shape, it had a fuzzy body rather than smooth (it looked like a great big housefly with giant wings), and they don’t have Monarch butterflies in the UK anyway.
I could see it testing my leg with its proboscis, I assume for salt. Satisfied, it carried on in this vein for a while. Suddenly a gust of wind came along and it snapped its wings shut like a book.
The underside of the butterfly’s wings were not orange, brown and black with white spots. They were varied shades of clumped brown and grey that looked precisely like a bit of tree bark. I probably should not have found this as startling as I did. Somehow the contrast between the upper side of my butterfly’s wings, so autumnally jeweled, and the underside, so…basically beige, seemed serendipitous. With its wings together the colored side wasn’t visible; it would be impossible to guess what brilliant hues were secreted there if I hadn’t seen them already.
The butterfly flapped its wings open and shut a couple of times, as if idly meditating on whether it had gotten the maximum amount of salt from my shin. Every time I saw the contrast between its upper wings and lower wings I thought about what a marvel it was, what marvelous things can be found in my own garden. In time it flew away, of course, but I was glad it had come to visit.
I had another garden encounter today. This time I was in the park near my house, where I’d gone to catch the last rays of the sun. Some teenagers, fifteen or sixteen years old I guessed, were playing on the playground obviously designed for much younger children than they. After a while I noticed one of them approaching. A girl, wearing mismatched stripey socks, one purple, one green. She also wore shorts, an oversized black shirt, and a headband with cat’s ears on it. She explained that she’d thought I was someone else from a distance, then wondered if we’d met before. She said she’d come to see if I wanted to join “the group” if I was there on my own. Bless her, I thought. She has no idea how far removed from that group I am. She wittered on about her socks for a while, pointing out that long socks never stay up to the same level but if you wear mismatched ones nobody cares anyway. I complimented her perspicacity. She said some people in “the group” liked her cat’s ears, so she’d brought them in today. She mentioned that the shirt was in fact her own, even though it hung so loosely on her, the sleeves completely enveloping her hands. Eventually she toddled off, back towards her friends and the trampolines. Soon enough I gave up my struggle against the chill in the evening air and returned home. I was glad for that visitor too.