Like butterflies

This butterfly appeared to be dying, but its beauty was still remarkable. March 2016

This butterfly appeared to be dying, but its beauty was still remarkable. March 2016

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”  — Carl Sagan

Ah, but Mr. Sagan, you of all people should know that infinity is poorly understood, even by humans. Perhaps our most profound mistakes occur in our perceptions of finality, in our willingness to accept the limits drawn by what we can immediately perceive with our five known senses. The tiniest visible particle contains within itself unseen worlds with complexity to rival the galaxies that were your life’s focus.

One of my church sisters spotted the butterfly pictured above while we were on an early Saturday walk on a woodland trail. It seemed apparent to us that this lovely creature must have been dying, for it did not fly away when we approached. Gently, we lifted it from the trail and placed it in the shaded area beneath a tree. As we left it behind, it was still nearly motionless. But in a sense, it will live on in the photographs I took, which I am sharing with you now. This same butterfly may be visited days or months hence by other blog readers, its beauty extending beyond its ability to flutter, leaving us with a renewed awareness of brevity intersecting with lingering presence.

Eighty-eight years ago today a baby boy was born in the humble home that was the birthplace of his own mother, a home that still stands today. He would go on to live a fairly typical American life, normalcy touched with flashes of astounding wonder. He taught his children more about infinity than any astrophysicist could have, and on the day he died, he left behind him on this earth three unborn great-grandchildren to add to the seven already blessing the world with love and laughter.

Some of us believe there is more to life than the brief day described by Sagan; that every person’s journey on earth carries within itself, hidden as the atoms and particles that are no less real for their invisibility, the forever that may not be an illusion at all.

Lending a hand to the butterfly March 2016

This post was first published seven years ago today. And as I wrote then, the memory of this butterfly lives on, in my mind and in this post. It is now 95 years ago today that my beloved Daddy was born, and nearly eight years since he left this earth, but his presence is as real in the lives of his four children, his eight grandchildren and his ten great-grandchildren as it ever was.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I used to think that monarch butterflies were the absolute pinnacle of butterfly magnificence, but then I discovered your amazing swallowtail butterfly! I’ve read the bright blue spots are supposed to confuse potential predators.

    • That’s the official state butterfly of Virginia! And I tend to spot them fairly often.

  2. Judy

    I continue to love each of your posts even though I don’t comment on very many of them. Today I went back to your original post about the butterfly so that I could read all the wonderful replies from your readers, plus your replies to them. That was so enjoyable. A lot of us were touched by the photograph of the butterfly and by your thoughts about Sagan’s quote. I still am. They touch deep places.

    I don’t recall ever seeing that Virginia butterfly here in central Pennsylvania but now I’ll be looking for it. Beautiful!

    • Judy, thank you! I’m so glad to know that you continue to enjoy my posts. For me, when I’m scheduling them to be re-posted, I always read through them and test the links to fix any broken ones, catch typos that slipped through the first time, etc. It surprises me how often I have totally forgotten about a post that I wrote myself! And of course, I do remember that the comments were my favorite part of the blog, though I don’t always have time to read back through them all. So many who used to comment frequently have now passed beyond this life. But as the theme of the post says, I believe they live on and I’m grateful for their presence on this blog as a memory of them that lives online as well. I have been intending to write you a letter for the LONGEST time — but maybe as I’m recovering from my surgery I’ll be able to slow down enough to send one. Meanwhile, thanks for being here! ❤

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