Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the day my sister Liz passed away. The details of that are irrelevant for the moment but her soft, gentle nature always put me in mind of butterflies, and tiger swallowtails were a favourite of both of us. You can read more about that here. It was interesting because before Liz passed away I had only seen a few tiger swallowtails in my life, but when we flew out for her last days and for the services after, we saw tiger swallowtails everywhere. Marcia and I would go for a walk and one would follow us down the street. We’d get in the car and drive somewhere and one would be there wherever we stopped. If we were sitting in the backyard a couple of swallowtails would come cavorting by. When we flew back to Ontario I saw three swallowtails in the first 48 hours, and I’ve seen several every year since.
So, yesterday being the anniversary of Liz’s departure, I went out looking for butterflies. I hadn’t seen any swallowtails yet this year. I walked the path all around Rithet’s Bog, and didn’t see a single butterfly, moth or even dragonfly! However, I did see a number of other things. I saw bumblebees and mason bees and honeybees, and a sweat bee (I think) I have yet to identify. I saw slugs on the trail, and I saw flowers everywhere. Tall buttercups and Nootka rose, arbutus and serviceberry, hardhack and purple vetch and salal. There were Rufous-side Towhees singing in the trees, and Red-winged Blackbirds and a Bewick’s Wren singing from the cattail stalks. There was even a male Gadwall hanging out with the resident Mallards; a little shy but doing his best to fit in. Marcia joined me on the trail and we fed sunflower seeds to the ducks, stopped to smell the roses, and together discovered a Bushtit nest. In short, we had a wonderful time.
If this little story must have a point to it, it’s to remember that sometimes we can fix our sights so firmly on a goal, on what we want or expect to see, that we can drown out or ignore what IS present around us. I don’t need butterflies to remind me of my sister, but I think of her every time I see one. As for Liz, I like to think she’s present in everything…