Saturday, April 22, 2006

The First Butterfly of Spring

The first butterfly of spring. (At least the first one I caught on film)
(Click picture for larger view)
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"In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash'd palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle - and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break."
~ Walt Whitman (1819-–1892) Leaves of Grass
The wildflower butterfly garden I planted is not yet mature, so I have to rely on the newly blooming lilac to attract the fluttering, flittering, fickle-winged creatures. It's not perfect but the color is true. I wonder what caterpillar morphed into this delicate creature.

I have a butterfly; her name is Nyssa Marie. She is lovely, colorful, delicate, and (relative to me) new to life. She is also stronger, smarter, bolder and more determined than most teenagers I have ever known. On Monday, she will no longer be a teenager. This makes her sad and although I have often wondered if we would ever get out of the "teens", this milestone also makes me a little sad as well. I know she's already a butterfly testing her wings in college, that's a given. But, when did this metamorphosis happen? When did this caterpillar change? Where was the cocoon? How did I miss it?

This was a teenage girl who couldn't get up on her own in the morning without the blasting of multiple alarms, sprays of cold water, mother begging, cajoling and finally threatening her with bodily harm. This girl slept through the loud crash of a 14 foot ceiling beam with attached light and fan that fell from the vaulted ceiling in the den one night. How would she ever get up on her own in the dorm at the Math & Science high school her junior year? Yes, she went to her 8 AM class in her flannel sleep pants and tee shirt, with a sweatshirt thrown on top, hair scrounged up in a ponytail, no make-up and yes, fuzzy slippers; but she got up on her own. (Apparently she wasn't the only one to do this, hence the sign in the dorm that read "Girls, do not go to class in your pjs". Maybe the slippers gave it away!)

This teenager learned to work for wages; as a waitress, in the library, in a candy store, as a daycare helper and next year as an RA in the college dorm. She's on the Dean's List at The College of William and Mary, even after they waitlisted her twice for admission. She is kind and empathetic and feels the hurts of others as acutely as if they were her own. This summer she spends three weeks working on the Mississippi Gulf Coast through a program that has college kids clearing debris, hammering nails, painting; essentially providing the "hands" needed for Katrina recovery. They pay their own way, so she wrote a grant proposal to the College and they've awarded her grant. I am amazed at this metamorphosis from a pretty, little fuzzy caterpillar to a graceful and "strong" butterfly with a beautiful heart.

So to Nyssa: I know it hurts when your father can't remember the correct date of your birthday. I know the workload is crushing at the end of the semester. I also know you will make it, just take one blossom at a time. When the "teens" leave on Monday, don't be sad, so much is ahead. Come my butterfly, your lilacs await! Love you!

(end of post)

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