Tuesday, August 02, 2011
I spent my childhood with a best friend exploring. This was our mission statement, and our summer quests knew no bounds. Only my mother's distant call for dinner would bring our daily expeditions to an end.
As young boys, we were never content to just observe. There was a desire to possess. We captured (and typically released) all manner of snakes, tadpoles, salamanders, frogs, wild birds, and butterflies. Butterflies are beautiful and fragile, but we did not understand the fragility. The brutish manner of young boys would seem to preclude such an understanding, only learning of such things after damage has been done.
This is masterfully illustrated in one of the most beloved episodes of the Andy Griffith show, "Opie the Birdman" (aired in 1963). In this episode, a young boy, Opie, accidentally kills a mother bird with his slingshot and leaves her three babies orphaned. Ever the wise father, rather than punish the boy, Andy open's Opie's bedroom window so he will hear the chicks calling after the mother, who will never come home. Opie takes care of them until they are to be released into the wild. Without conventional punishment, Opie learns the meaning of responsibility, accountability, loss and the consequences of one's actions.
The story also illustrates the fragility of life. And what is more fragile and beautiful than a butterfly with a lifespan of only a few weeks? New York City is not the place for the delicate or fragile. Such things, if they exist at all, must typically be protected and sheltered from the masses. Seeing a butterfly in a natural environment takes on a very special meaning here - it feels like nothing short of a remarkable event.
This Tiger Swallowtail looks like it had suffered some damage. A little faded, a little bruised - reminders that we are in New York City and that to live here, you must be a survivor, get hurt and keep flying :)
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