Faith Stories: Meditation on a Butterfly
Psalm 148: 7-10, 13
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds….
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
I set my chair at the very edge of the stand of lantanas. My little side table held a glass of cold water, binoculars and field guides for butterflies and hummingbirds. Across from the lantana, passion vines and zinnias were in full bloom. It was an early October morning. No mowers or leaf blowers disturbed the deep silence. My plan was to ‘study up’ on the identification and scientific names of the butterflies that came along.
In my knowledge-seeking mind, I reviewed the wondrous life cycle of the butterfly – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult – that metamorphosis that has challenged and awed the imagination of humankind from time immemorial. I immersed myself in the examination of the Latin names and smiled to remember that Linnaeus and others after him had given these ethereal beauties not descriptive names like we typically find, for example, in the mockingbird’s name, Mimus polyglottus (many-tongued mimic) but fanciful and often obscure appellations that allude to names found only in classical mythology. I was also making a mental list of host plants and nectar plants that were thriving in my garden, planning ahead to next spring’s planting season.
Suddenly, a sweep of color and gentle movement caught my eye. A giant swallowtail had come to sip nectar from a lantana blossom. It rested there in the sun, not ten inches from my eager eyes. As I observed the intricate pattern of colors on its back and the seductive ballet of its gently moving wings, my breath was taken away. No longer was I the scientific knowledge-seeking observer, but an intricate part of creation along with this beautiful insect.
I realized that I was on holy ground, witness to a small but very special part of God’s creative genius. As I sat in awe and gratitude and prayer, I felt God’s certain presence. In the silence, more glorious butterflies arrived – a monarch, a cloudless sulfur and a Gulf fritillary- overwhelming in their beauty and gentleness. Time seemed to stand still. And I sat in that holy place and dreamed of Eden.