This past week I noticed a few faded and tattered butterflies, flitting around, then stopping to rest on small patches of henbit and trampweed. I wondered how they managed to survive the many nights of freezing temperatures the last two months. Always though, the days brought warmth and sunshine, in spite of the looming winter cold. Somehow these delicate beauties found shelter before the night, and discovered warmth and renewed life, basking in the morning sun.
Oklahoma has enjoyed a good deal of mild weather so far, but tonight will bring the first winter storm of the season. Birds will tuck away in the thickets or in cedar and pine trees. Squirrels will find shelter in tree trunks and knot holes, or maybe some old shed or dilapidated barn. Small mammals will burrow in dens or perhaps little cavities under tree roots or fallen timber. Even Daisy deer will likely bed down in a sheltered area to brave the wind, sleet and snow.
But my heart sinks… for where will the butterflies go, those who did not migrate to the south? Looking out over the pastures and along the slope into the woods this morning, not a sign of the winged beauties did I see. Perhaps today’s 40° temperatures are not warm enough to give flight to my cold-blooded friends. I do know that for a few days or a couple of weeks of cold temperatures, butterflies and moths can hibernate, and will emerge again when the days are warm. Some will tuck away in tree bark, or under heavy foliage of winter perennials. But if the blustery, cold of winter remains for very long, the winged fritillary will cease life. I wonder, as the storm brews tonight, how many of them will perish in the frosty chill, and lay lifeless under the blanket of the first winter snow…
Thine emulous fond flowers are dead, too,
And the daft sun-assaulter, he
That frighted thee so oft, is fled or dead:
Save only me
(Nor is it sad to thee!)
Save only me
There is none left to mourn thee in the fields.
The gray grass is not dappled with the snow;
Its two banks have not shut upon the river;
But it is long ago–
It seems forever–
Since first I saw thee glance,
With all the dazzling other ones,
In airy dalliance,
Precipitate in love,
Tossed, tangled, whirled and whirled above,
Like a limp rose-wreath in a fairy dance.
When that was, the soft mist
Of my regret hung not on all the land,
And I was glad for thee,
And glad for me, I wist.
Thou didst not know, who tottered, wandering on high,
That fate had made thee for the pleasure of the wind,
With those great careless wings,
Nor yet did I.
And there were other things:
It seemed God let thee flutter from his gentle clasp:
Then fearful he had let thee win
Too far beyond him to be gathered in,
Snatched thee, o’er eager, with ungentle grasp.
Ah! I remember me
How once conspiracy was rife
Against my life–
The languor of it and the dreaming fond;
Surging, the grasses dizzied me of thought,
The breeze three odors brought,
And a gem-flower waved in a wand!
Then when I was distraught
And could not speak,
Sidelong, full on my cheek,
What should that reckless zephyr fling
But the wild touch of thy dye-dusty wing!
I found that wing broken to-day!
For thou are dead, I said,
And the strange birds say.
I found it with the withered leaves
Under the eaves.
~ Robert Frost, My Butterfly.
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…