Caught this photo during a walk at the nature center. I think it’s a California Tortoiseshell butterfly (Nymphalis californica), according to my Golden Guide butterfly book.
When I was a kid, my father thought I’d be interested in collecting butterflies, but it was soon apparent I wasn’t into entomology. I found I’d rather capture them on film instead.
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An excerpt from one of my stories:
Her father never answered her questions about his childhood or his parents. He just smiled, bemused. Until another cloud drifted across his face, then he’d be telling her about another species of butterfly he’d found. Caught. Killed. Mounted. He had case after case of butterflies, moths, beetles in his "den", all labeled with the correct Latin names; Papilio troilus, Delias eucharis, Talicada nyseus, Vanessa cardui, Danaus plexippus.
He’d tried to get her interested in collecting when she was a girl, when he was still living with her mother. But it horrified her to watch the creatures die in the kill jar, their iridescent wings slowly become still. And then to pin them to the mount. The small crunch through the now lifeless body.
He’d left them behind when he disappeared. Left all the shining wings frozen in their dusty cases. Left his rock collection, too, although he took his map of Panama, she later noticed. She sometimes imagined him living in some little shack near the ocean, or perhaps near a small village. Did he fish? Did he now collect Central American insects? Did he remarry? Or perhaps, like her mother, he was dead. The thought of him being dead was easier to accept than that he simply vanished. She wondered if she’d ever find out.
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We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.