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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Own Butterflies

Over the weekend, I visited a different place and saw different scenery.

I saw some beautiful landscapes, but I also noticed the butterflies. Everywhere you go in Missouri right now, there are butterflies.

The butterflies that I noticed were just like the butterflies at home: pearl crescents, common buckeyes, and even a passing red-spotted purple flying high. But there was one important difference: they were not my butterflies. I knew it, and they knew it, too. And so they did not stop to say hello, but just went flitting by.

"Aya, you can't own a butterfly," someone might want to say to me at this point. "You can't own any animal at all, because they have souls of their own." And I would beg to differ. You can tell who is yours and who isn't, by the way they behave. This is true of dogs, cats, and chimpanzees. And it includes human beings, too! Can you go up to strangers and give them a hug? Unless you are mentally challenged, you know there are boundaries. The boundaries may not be marked with a fence or a property line, but they are just as real!

Back home again, I went out into the backyard and mowed it yesterday, while Bow and the dogs did their own things. Everybody was glad I was back, and I was glad to be back. And since it was my own backyard, I could even stop in my work any time I wanted to, and take pictures of butterflies.

I saw what I thought was a question mark butterfly on the trunk of a tree, and while I was trying to get closer, a great spangled fritillary landed on my leg and then flitted off and landed again on my shoulder.

This never happens to me any place but at home, on my own land. But it has been happening more and more frequently lately, as if, after fourteen years of living here, the butterflies finally know and trust me.

With Bow and Brownie looking on, the butterfly remained on my shoulder for a good long moment.

Brownie watching as the butterfly moves freely on my shoulder
Then it flew away. Nowhere else than on my own land has anything like this ever happened to me.

People talk about how property lines and state boundaries and borders are all artificial constructs and how when the world is viewed from outer space, all that disappears. But we don't live in outer space. We live right here on earth, and when you get closer, really close, you can see that the property lines make a big difference in the behavior of every living being they affect, even if they are not marked from above.

The wildflowers on either side of the fence may look exactly the same, but when the neighbors mow their pasture, my flowers don't get cut down. And on some level of visceral feeling, I think they know it, and it alters their behavior. My butterflies trust me, and the butterflies that are not mine do not.

Trust is not something you can give somebody else as a present. Trust has to be earned. I have that with Bow. Bow has that with me. And that's what ownership is all about. And if you don't believe me, then take it from Nabal the Carmelite, in my novel Vacuum County.


  1. I love the butterfly sitting on the shoulder. I have never experienced that. These butterflies feel comfortable on your land and around you.

    1. Thanks, Julia. I really think that's true.