There is a manic busyness to butterflies that reminds a person that life is short. On average, a butterfly lives about a month, which is practically a luxury when compared to the mayfly which lives as an adult for less than a day—time which is basically spent reproducing before giving up their tiny ghosts. There is a lesson in this, probably.*
Because the human life span promises an extravagance of time, we tend to play fast and loose with our possibilities. We waste time to a degree that that Mother Nature shakes her head and throws plagues and severe storms at us for the occasional wake-up call. I was reminded of this while photographing butterflies at Meijer Gardens this weekend.
Saturday, I shutterbugged my way through hordes of Vitamin-D deficient, pale mid-westerners who frolicked in the sun like they forgot what the glowing ball in the sky meant.** It was a good day to be out. Bright, warm. If I hadn’t had a raging headache, the day would have been perfect.
A babysitter sprinted after my son who was like a hound off his leash, allowing me the privilege of a leisurely inspection of the Japanese Gardens where incipient spring threatens pollen bombing if the warm weather continues.
In my haste to worship the sun god, I neglected my hat and sunscreen routine. After ensuring that I’d exposed myself long enough to accrue a good case of sunstroke, I scampered inside to jam myself between iPhone happy strangers all trying to immortalize terrorized butterflies in unwilling selfies in the arboretum.
April signifies the end of the Butterfly Exhibit—a seasonal tradition at the gardens guaranteeing huge crowds as winter slips its stranglehold on the state. It also signals the end of the butterflies’ tiny life spans. Maybe it was just me, but their ragged wings and spastic flapping seemed tragic even as I too tried to pin their image to a digital cork board. It’s a macabre pastime only ameliorated by the lack of chloroform and a ‘humane’ practice of letting the poor things live out their sexless lives, out of season, trapped in a giant glass prison. I quash my guilt in order to enjoy myself.
Throbbing skull aside, it was a perfect day. [Cue Ominous Music.]
We’re walking back to the car when, suddenly, I realize something is blocking the vision in my right eye. There is a shadow pantomime something like a stick and a jellyfish sword fighting wherever I look. I’ve had similar incidents in the past, but nothing on this scale. I’m not the brightest girl in the world, but, taking the headache into consideration, it occurs to me something might be wrong.
I scurry home, upload my pictures (because, hey, priorities), and chat with a friend to ask her opinion. She agrees, it is probably a floater and it’s no big deal. Because I suffer a certain amount of paranoia married with an overactive imagination and access to the internet, I come up with a different conclusion: I’ve detached a retina and I could lose my vision altogether.*** I call my friend who is a doctor, she says, “It’s probably nothing, but at your age with your severe myopia it could be a detached retina. If you can, you should have it looked at.”
Fast forward to an emergency visit to an ophthalmologist’s office, and she confirms it: “It’s just a big floater. We’ll have you come back in three weeks to see how it’s doing.”
So, there you have it, butterflies are pernicious omens of ill will and doom, signifying the end of all things. Of course, that could just be the dancing jellyfish in my eye playing tricks on me.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Mayfly mantra: more sex, less effing around with laundry and shit.
**We had. I call it winter amnesia.
***This is aptly called free-floating anxiety. Also, part of me wants to call this a detached retinue–because all of the voices in my head have abandoned me to run around in a panic.