BUTTERFLIES

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I can´t tell whether there are more butterflies this year than usual, or whether I´m simply more inclined to appreciate them.

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But the fact is that in the last few weeks I´ve noticed several species I´d never seen before.

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The frustrating thing is that they are so difficult to photograph.

Mestra anymone

Mestra anymone

 I see them fluttering around here and there with out any apparent purpose, and can´t help but wonder what on earth they´re seeking.

Heliconius erato

Heliconius erato

They are beautiful, but restless.

Heliconius carithonia

Heliconius carithonia

I attempt to communicate telepathically to tell them “Take it easy. Relax. Let yourself be seen, for I want to know you”. But it´s all in vain.

Dryadula phaetusa

Dryadula phaetusa

And when they finally do decide to rest upon a leaf or flower, they tend to close their wings, hiding their colorful patterns and depriving me of that which caught my attention in the first place.

Siproeta_stelenes_Fotor

Siproeta stelenes

Perhaps the most frustrating of all are the Morphos.  In flight they flash a lovely metallic blue (which by the way isn´t due to any pigment, but rather to the way light reflects off the wing´s surface).  But resting they resemble a dull and common moth.

Morpho_cerrada_Fotor

Morpho

There are many species of Morpho, and I know I´ve seen several, but I find it impossible to identify them in flight.  I wait for the perfect pose that never happens, and begin to fantasize about capturing them.  I´m tempted to kill them for their beauty.  This is an absurd and repugnant practice when applied to jaguars or swordfish. But for the first time, with this insect, I understand that impulse, though it shames me to admit it.

Later on I find one trapped in the house, trying desperately to fly through a glass window.  I watch it for a moment, hoping that in its exhaustion it will finally allow me to take that photo I want so badly. But it´s useless.  When it does rest, it closes its wings.  I take advantage of its exhaustion to grab it.  I take it out to the patio hoping that perhaps it will return the favor and pose for picture before fleeing. But it isn´t so. As soon as I open my fingers, it flutters off into the trees.

I go back inside pleased with having rescued instead of killed the object of my desire.

The next day, I find another one battling the mosquito screen and repeat the deed. I capture it to remove it from the house and release it back into the freedom of the jungle.

It feels good to help them.  I forgive them for not helping me take their picture.  I discover (or perhaps remember?) that experiencing beauty is better than photographing it.  I learn to set aside the camera and simply enjoy what the butterflies have to offer, instead of demanding they give me more of themselves.

And having made peace with their elusiveness, accepting them just as they are, and grateful for the lesson, I find one fluttering on the floor of an underground parking lot.

At first I think its wet and that is why it cannot fly.  But when I pick it up, I realize that is not the case.  It is gravely injured. Not wishing to cause it further stress, I place it back on the floor.  I wait for a moment, hoping to see it recover and take flight. But all it manages to do is roll over on itself as it flaps frantically.

I try to walk away, but cannot let it suffer.

Without looking, I stomp and beg its forgiveness.

I pick up the carcass, and tuck it between two pieces of cardboard.

There´s that damned photo I wanted so much:

Morpho

Morpho

David Nuñez es biólogo, fotógrafo y autor de un par de libros sobre la fauna del Caribe Mexicano, así como miembro fundador de Mexiconservación.

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