In August butterflies swarm the highway. Swallowtails and monarchs flutter along roadside flowers but just as a car approaches they bumble into the way. There is no time to react. Little buckeyes, wood satyrs, and painted ladies are hit unnoticed because their brown wings do not glisten in the sun. After a Friday evening commute or a Sunday morning church migration, disconnected wings scatter the steaming cement—like oak leaves in autumn, they swirl in the wake of passing cars.
I swerve for butterflies. Tourist following me must think I am drunk. I would stop for them if I it was practical, but then I’d have to creep along at twenty five miles and hour while the butterflies lackadaisically moved aside.
I don’t imagine many people want to hit butterflies just to watch in the rear view mirror as they bounce along the asphalt. The butterfly is a gentle creature and a representation of reincarnation. Butterflies have a childlike way of enjoying life. They flutter carelessly and seemingly without purpose. Then they land and slowly fan their wings, absorbing the glory of each individual moment. The insect shows us that metamorphosis is possible. It gives us hope that we too may be able to become reborn in a less destructive more beautiful being. Because every butterfly was once a caterpillar. There is something cute about a caterpillar. In its helpless grub-like state it reminds me of a baby. But any farmer knows the destruction a caterpillar can bring.
I have only one fruit tree on Owls' Knob, a young pear tree. A friend of our family planted it years ago as a ritual for his daughter’s fifth birthday. It has never produced a flower or fruit; it's still too young. But every summer I walk down to the pond where it grows and collect the bag worms. I take a long stick and use it to wind up the webbing like a cardboard cone is used to wind up cotton candy. With my cotton cone of wiggling worms, I walk to the edge of the woods. Watching them wiggle, so helplessly, like unborn fetuses inside their womb of webbing, I feel sorry for them. Nonetheless, I hurl the stick, worms and all, deep into the forest where birds probably feast. It amazes me that I can dislike a creature so much in one stage of its life but then love the same creature in another stage. Everything changes inside that magical cocoon. The cocoon turns a troublesome grub into a beneficial angel.