The clouds have returned this morning. It's cool and gray. I am sitting at my desk which provides a jumbled border between our living room furniture and our dining room furniture. I am looking out the glass doors over the balcony. I choose to work here because it seems here that indoors is almost outdoors. A tiny yellow bird with touches of black is flitting from leaf to leaf on some rose leaves. He is pecking off what I imagine are tiny bugs for its breakfast.
December and January seem almost devoid of small creatures here. It is our winter. But yesterday we noticed the return of some butterflies including a tiny one that Jim spotted. It was maybe a third of an inch across a wing as it sat on a plant that didn't quite mask it. I've seen some large yellow ones and a white one with fine black tracings on its wings.
As it warms, I hope we will see a kaleidescope of butterflies. Every winter I worry that maybe this year they will not come back. I don't know much about butterflies, just scraps that Jim has told me -- he learns a lot more. I am always amazed at the delicacy and complexity of their designs, the richness of their colors, their fragility and toughness, and how ugly they can be as caterpillars or in their cocoons.
Just in time to mark the very first glimmers of butterfly season here (if that's what I can call it) there is an article in the NY Times about Vladimir Nabokov* as butterfly lover and expert. It turns out that he was the curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. He was self-taught, with a special interest in a group called Polyomattus blues. We see quite a number of blue butterflies here in season. I don't know if any are part of his blues. I was amazed to read that butterflies have existed for millions and millions of years and that Nabakov's theories about their migrations from Asia over vast expanses of time have proven accurate even though he wasn't taken very seriously as a scientist and his theories were considered unlikely during his lifetime.
What long histories creatures on the planet have, what adventures they have been on, what obstacles they have faced! I'm glad Nabokov thought about these things. And that I can be lazy and learn from him without doing all his work.
I am a dilettante. Without even leaving our house I am dazzled and bewildered by the abundance I see. I wouldn't know how to discipline myself to focus only if intently on blue butterflies or tiny yellow birds or the path of the waterfall or the trees growing helter skelter over the hillsides.
*The great Russian writer probably most famous in the US for Lolita.