These fragile creatures, known for their marvelous ability to transform themselves from caterpillar to winged wonder, have often been employed as symbols of the soul, hope and renewal.
In late winter when there is still the threat of harsh weather, one doesn’t expect to find such a delicate creature in the woods. My grandson was turning a log over in the forest to examine a shelf fungus more closely when he caught sight of the butterfly.
Though its wings appeared frosted and stiff, we brought it indoors to have a closer look. We were quickly able to identify it as a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), a species that can convert glucose into antifreeze in order to survive the cold. When its wings are closed, showing only the dark undersides, it’s also extremely well camouflaged in dark woods.
What is unsought will go undetected.
Too often, we only see what we expect to. Adults usually don’t expect to see butterflies in winter. But a five-year-old wouldn’t have such set expectations, so his eyes would not so easily dismiss the shape of delicate wings for dried leaves. I wondered how many Mourning Cloaks I had missed seeing in the winter woods over the years.
Within minutes of being indoors, the butterfly was opening its wings. Though it looked a bit ragged, it was still alive.
The older we get, the better we learn how to manage expectations. We don’t like to disappoint others and we especially don’t like to disappoint ourselves so we get into the habit of expecting less of everything around us. Yet, surely there’s something to be lost in lowering expectations in order to avoid disappointment. Besides butterflies in winter, what else might we be missing?
High expectations are the key to everything.
~ Sam Walton
Thank you to Joseph Belicek of Edmonton Alberta for identifying this butterfly’s subspecies as hyperborea.
Scott over at Views Infinitum is offering a macro photography challenge to all who are interested. Deadline for submissions is March 23rd. The close-up images shown above were made by using the macro mode on the Nikon Coolpix S8000.