Escaping the jaws of death
16 Sep 2012
Today I witnessed an interesting little drama of life and the accidental interruption of death that changed how the story should have played out.
I was in the yard by the well house bringing Bernie back from his walk when I saw a sulphur butterfly nectaring in the still-blooming clerodendrum. I had never seen one in the flowers before - sulphurs prefer real reds and tubular blues like morning glories, mahogany vine, honeysuckles and the golden centers of Bidens alba if nothing else is in bloom.
I went inside and got my camera. I missed a shot, but they always come back when startled, returning often to the same flower. It circled in a big arc and came back around flying to the other side of the well house where I knew the plant had one good bloom. But it wasn't on that flower head. I looked for it and when I saw it, it was acting strangely. I couldn't really make out what was going on because the stalk and leaf were high above my head, and I thought maybe because of what the wings looked like that a male had mated with it or it was laying eggs, but still...
I held my camera up over my head and started taking photos and then I realized an anole had it. I hadn't noticed for it matched the leaf beautifully. I got closer and the movement of my arms or the stems made it flee. The butterfly remained on its side, injured, or more probably, dead.
I bent the leaf and laid the butterfly on another leaf about waist high. The breeze turned it over. The body was still intact. I think it had lost one leg on the right side and there was a wound on each side, but the jaws of the anole didn't go through its soft body. It fell off that leaf and into the dog waterer, an old, shallow sink that's been in the same place for a couple of decades. Now it was floating on its back. I picked it up and placed it on a leaf, again on its side. I got busy with something, thinking it was dying. When I came back about 20 minutes later, it was on the leaf, standing, wings up over its back, like any good little sulphur.
I moved it to the cover of a calicarpa - a mass of fuschia berries and green leaves, and it stepped off my finger and perched on a leaf stem. Good. It looked strong, though a little dented from the jaws of the anole.
I went back and did some work on my computer. In an hour I was back out and I could see the little sulphur on the underside of a curved twig on the ground. I've caught them waking up and going to sleep. Its antennae had changed color, and it was drab and darker. Sometimes butterflies fade or change their color when they sleep. Maybe it was the trauma of almost being eaten. Maybe it had to rest there, upside down. I went to town and returned, looked for the little butterfly, but it was gone.
There are so many small stories of life and life and death going on around you and you only have to patiently watch them unfold. They are good reminders that you are not the center of the universe. After all, you could at any time be snatched up by a dinosaur in the jungle of life; or, maybe not. A little breeze or a few seconds of interruption could make all the difference.