Over the past few seasons many gardeners have lamented the increasing absence of insects, butterflies among them.
And then just recently, after extensive heat then flooding rains here in Eastern Australia, something truly wonderful happened. There was a butterfly explosion where I live. Clouds of them floating across the highways and beaches. Alighting on people and pets, getting caught in car grills. Flitting among the plants in my tiny courtyard.
Instantly, the summer days of my childhood were invoked. The whirr, whirr, of my dad mowing the lawn with a push mower. The smell of freshly cut grass enhanced by the warmth of the summer day. My mother, be-hatted and bending over her dahlias, deadheading the flowers among the bees. And me, squinting into the sun as I chased the floating clouds of butterflies over my head.
Ahh … to bask for a while in the idyllic past. Although we know of course, the past is never quite as golden as we recall. Still, I’m grateful for those selective memories.
Of course, if we want butterflies, we must tolerate the caterpillars. Like so many things in life, there is always a downside to balance the up. But after their prolonged absence, I’m happy to sacrifice a few chewed leaves to have the butterflies. Reminder to self: don’t squash any more caterpillars!
In many cultures the butterfly is the quintessential symbol of metamorphosis, change, transition. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, gave the butterfly the name psyche , the Greek word for soul [ref]. In the discipline of psychoanalysis the butterfly is regarded as a symbol of rebirth. While in China, the butterfly symbolises secondary meanings of joy and conjugal bliss [ref].
Such a lot of symbolic weight on those tiny diaphanous wings!
So beyond the fleeting beauty of this little wanderer, my preference is to see its presence as a harbinger of change. A transition from the struggle in isolation of the chrysalis to metamorphose, then escape its cocooning prison, and emerge as something different, more beautiful. More than that, the butterfly signifies the naturalness of change, its constancy. I am grateful to Nature for the lessons offered.
When you find yourself cocooned in isolation and you cannot find your way out of darkness…-Necole Stephens
Remember, this is similar to the place where caterpillars go to grow their wings.