The Power of One

February 10, 2017


“Here’s how we count the people who are ready to do right:  ‘One.’  ‘One.’  ‘One.'”
— William Stafford

Feet to stand upright

Feet to stand upright, with compassion

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate.  Hope is the one thing left to us in a bad time.”
— E. B. White, Letter to M. Nadeau, March 30, 1973

Texas bluebonnets

We saw our first Texas bluebonnets in a ditch from the windows of the car rental shuttle at the Houston airport, but we couldn’t stop for photos.  That first sighting whetted my appetite, so the hunt was on.  I next saw some at a nursery in Chappell Hill.  Chappell Hill is on the “Bluebonnet Trail,” and I had read that one could sometimes find early blooms along the trail at Old Baylor Park in Independence, so we made a point to stop there.  We were in luck.

Potted bluebonnet for sale in a Chappell Hill nursery

Bluebonnets and white wildflowers at Old Baylor Park

Wildflowers in bloom at Old Baylor Park in Independence, Texas

 After Independence, bluebonnets proved elusive until later in our trip when we drove south of San Antonio.  Suddenly we saw bluebonnets growing in profusion in huge patches along I-37.

Texas bluebonnets along I-37 south of San Antonio

Bluebonnets along I-37

We saw plenty of other wildflowers along the roadsides of Texas.

Coral-colored Indian paintbrush near Old Baylor Park

Butterfly and wildflower

Flowering plum and butterfly

Tiny blue wildflowers

White wildflower

Cactus in San Antonio

Patch of evening primroses growing wild in a ditch

Coreopsis growing close to the ground, North Padre Island National Seashore

Prickly poppies, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Huge thistle near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Wildflowers in a meadow near Brazoria

Wisteria in bloom on the drive to Huntsville, Texas

Bee in the wisteria blossoms

Wings Pressed in Prayer

August 7, 2010

Butterfly at rest in Ben's wildflower patch

Yellow butterfly

After reading the following poem by Ted Kooser, I cannot see folded butterfly wings without thinking of praying hands:

Praying Hands
by Ted Kooser

There is at least one pair
In every thrift shop in America,
Molded in plastic or plaster of paris
And glued to a plaque,
or printed in church pamphlet colors
and framed under glass.
Today I saw a pair made out of
lightweight wire stretched over a pattern
of finishing nails.
This is the way faith goes
from door to door,
cast out of one and welcomed at another.
A butterfly presses its wings like that
as it rests between flowers.

Self-Propelled Flowers

August 6, 2010

“Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.”
     — R. H. Heinlein

Postman butterflies at the Como Park Zoo

“But these are flowers that fly and all but sing . . .”
     from “Blue-Butterfly Day” by Robert Frost

While I was in Minnesota, my sister-in-law took me to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.  They had a special exhibit of butterflies in a portable tent.  I was captivated by their bright colors.  It wasn’t until later, when I looked at some of my photos, that I noticed how ravaged some of their wings were.  Such fragile and short-lived beauty.

Seeing double

Aptly named Owl Butterfly

Blue Morpho with a hint of its hidden brilliant blue coloring

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
     — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Finger perch

Butterfly Metamorphosis

August 30, 2009

Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed, Minnesota, August 2008

Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed, Minnesota, August 2008

The life cycle of the monarch butterfly is a metaphor for the changes we all experience as we go through life, growing into the individual we were meant to be.  Last August when I was home in Minnesota, I witnessed the miraculous transformation of a monarch caterpillar into a chrysalis.  I found this process perfectly described by Amy Seidl in her new book, Early Spring.  Her words are quoted below:

Monarch caterpillars on milkweed plant

Monarch caterpillars on milkweed plant

“After a few days of eating, the larger caterpillars enter their fifth and final larval stage.  They become sluggish and meander about the jars as if looking for something.  And then one by one they climb up to the top of the stick and glue their end to it, anchoring themselves with a plug of white silk.  In this way they become suspended upside down, their bodies curving slightly at the head so that each forms a letter j.”

Two caterpillars suspended like the letter J

Two caterpillars suspended like the letter J

“We pick up a jar and look closely at one of them.  Its two jet-black antennae hang limp and quiver slightly even as the head and mouth move furiously in the air like a squirrel’s when eating a nut.  The body is gyrating, coiling, pulsing with change; each segment blurs into the next as blood and air are pumped into the body to push at the old exo-skeleton.  The caterpillar intends to throw its entire skin off, to disrobe its claustrophobic self and emerge entirely different. . . After a period of stillness, the caterpillar’s skin splits directly behind the two antennaes as if an invisible X-acto blade had bilaterally splayed the insect from above.  An emerald green offering shines through; it is the pupa in the shape of a drupe, the head cloaked in developing wings.”

The old skin splits and curls upward; the green pupa emerges

The old skin splits and curls upward; the green pupa emerges

“The pupa thrusts and turns as if it were a spinning top, rotating its skin upward to the silk plug that holds it, winding and winding until its skin become a ball of debris and is shed like a crumpled dress at the base of a bed.”

Pupa thrusting and turning

Pupa thrusting and turning

“Dangling by a thread, the living trinket is resplendent.  From the outside, little appears to be happening inside the jeweled case.  In fact, the invisible changes are enormous.  Wings are forming, each cell receiving color, each vein blackening.  I imagine the proboscis (the insect’s hollow tongue) lengthening bit by bit and readying the butterfly-to-be for the sweet taste of nectar.  New antennae are forming, each folding back accordion-style in the enclosed space and waiting to spring up.”

New chrysalis before it hardens; the other pupa failed to complete its transformation into a viable chrysalis

New chrysalis before it hardens; the other pupa failed to complete its transformation into a viable chrysalis