Beyond the reach at Islandview Beach – Annie Pang
May 26th, 2012
It was early for me to be looking, but our neurotic Victoria weather was not something to be toyed with. A sunny day or even a partly sunny day, if dry, held promise. Today, it had to be Islandview Beach. I don’t know why, but I felt certain I had to go there and that this was the day to do it. I had checked all my previous records of photographs, and I knew I was around two weeks earlier than I’d ever been, but….well, I felt compulsively obsessed that I just had to go.
After a tough week of mostly gloomy weather, it didn’t take much to convince John that we needed a break. We could visit Michell Farms’ Market, check out Firbank Farms, and just relax. It was a good ploy. It isn’t that I didn’t want to do all those things, but my yearning was for the fields behind Islandview Beach. What if the Ringlets were early?
I must stop here and just explain to you that the “Common Ringlet” is like my soulmate. I have had it land, lie down and allow me to approach it so closely, sometimes within inches and get the most incredibly magical photographs of it.
To me they are like the fairies of the butterflies here. If I learn to paint, it would be these Ringlets that have inspired me to do so. Some things simply cannot be put into words.
Common? If Ringlets are “common” then so am I! And damned proud of it.
I know Ringlets are on some sort of list, be it “at risk” or “endangered”….I’m not sure, but I do know that they will only thrive in certain grasslands and I am afraid of what might become of them should these be encroached on. I fear that some day, I will not be able to find them.
And then, I will not be able to find myself.
So I went to look for them because I needed to find them. I had lost a piece of myself, it seemed, and only the sight of them could save me. Such is the power of a butterfly, and each new emerging species is my strength.
We did go to the farms, bought some veggie starts for the garden, and I even managed to eat a little something. But it was time to go and see.
We found a nice shady parking spot and I got out. With my camera around my neck I was looking down when I spotted a penny in the gravel. I used to leave it there, thinking that maybe someone else might need it more than I did. But then I remembered the words of a very wise man who had told me “If you find a penny on the ground, it was left there for you during a time of need and you should never refuse such a gift. Pick it up.” So I did.
Only later did I realize the metaphors.
We walked into the fields behind the beach and the vegetation was coming along well. There were very few if any mosquitoes for a change, but also no butterflies. I spotted a Cabbage White and took its picture because it did land. It was rather a windy day.
Then I saw a bird land in an English Hawthorn sapling, so I zoomed in. It looked a bit like a Song Sparrow but there was yellow on its face and a white stripe down its crown. It sang and let me get quite close so I tried getting some pictures. I didn’t think they were all that great, but I was just glad they might turn out well enough to identify the bird.
But my mission was hollow because there were no Ringlets. I felt a sense of loss and we walked along trying to decide if we ought to turn back. It was then that I got this feeling that I just hadn’t gone far enough. Trusting my hunch, I went further along and something felt familiar to me. John was reluctant at first….that is, until he spotted his first Ringlet!!! There it was like my lucky penny, gyrating through the air, and then another and another. I was off like a mad woman because I knew how quickly they could disappear. I ran here and there, I knew that eventually, after a good dose of frustration and stalking only to have them fly off from right under my feet, that one would stop, that time would stop, that my chance would come.
And it did – first in the grass, and then on a yellow flower; it was a dance we danced. It would land, give me time for shots, and then disappear, then reappear. And I was doing what I love; capturing my lucky pennies with my pictures, for that is what they look like in flight, the orange on their wings looking like copper coins spinning, spinning ….and our dance went on until I was exhausted.
Back we went, through the fields of red fescue grass and it was then that John mentioned something alarming to me; that the Capital Regional District Parks might be planning to do some sort of development or that it was privately owned land and new ditches were being put in for …..? I felt a shiver go down my spine.
I hope this isn’t so. I hope they give some thought to what they are doing for a change, these people who hold the fate of a race of butterflies in the palm of their very destructive hands….
When I looked at the pictures, I was very surprised to discover that my pictures of that bird were better than I had thought. A Savannah Sparrow, I was later told by Terry and Marie, another friend who is very knowledgeable about birds.
I share these images with you and the following poem out of a feeling of happiness and desperation. We must find a way to wake up from our apathy and speak out for this world, and its creatures, so lovely, so fragile……all of us, living on a pin called “hope”….
Fescue by the Sea
I see a tarnished copper penny on the gravel path
and pick it up to save it from its rusty, dust bath.
Into my pocket does it go as absently I tuck
this token of good fortune – may it bring to me some luck!
I come here on the hunt today in fields behind the beach,
I come to find more pennies here, beyond the water’s reach.
My hair is blowing in the wind and so I nurse this doubt:
that silent voices called me here – no Ringlets are about…
A rabbit darts across my way, goes hopping down the trail,
a Cabbage White flies on the breeze on weightless wings that sail
and lands so still for me to shoot a picture, so I do,
for how can I return with nothing from this place for you?
A lovely song comes singing, singing, beauty to my ears;
upon a branch in front of me, a sparrow shows no fears.
My camera swings to capture it! I hope the shots are good!
I try so hard to capture it, as you’d expect I would.
Then looking ‘round from sky to ground, at grass that is so tall,
bees’ buzz on by, I want to cry, “No Ringlets here at all.”
But then inside my head I hear, “Come further! You must walk
into the fields of fescue yields to find the Ringlets’ lock!”
So on I go into the fields, this song inside my head,
till suddenly some copper pennies fly up from their bed!
They do not sail upon the breeze but twirl through the air
and, flirting through the fescue red, it seems, without a care.
I’m off; the wind is on my back, though careful on my way;
my camera is determined to catch pennies here today!
Then, in the sun, I see that one just drops down for a rest
and all that is inside of me comes bursting to my chest.
For magic’s in the air today and in this pixie’s hand –
please let me take some home with me, some magic from this land.
And as I hold my breath inside, as closer do I creep,
the pixie shows no signs of leaving from its sunny sleep.
Each shot I take is precious as I inch a little more
towards my little coppered friend – he lets me in the door,
into his world of fescue fields, into his wondrous dream
of what it’s like to fly the sky beneath the honeyed beam.
He leads me here, he leads me there and then he lands again
and I’m enthralled. I see some more rise up and fly this plain!
There’s Ringlets flying through the fields, they sip on yellow flowers
and landing for a shot or two – I drink their nectared powers.
This land is holy ground for me and on this land I dance.
For one more year, please let them be, don’t leave it up to chance!
And driving home the words come flying like those butterflies;
my heart is racing on the worries for their homeland cries.
Then I recall that lucky penny in the parking lot
and, patting it, I hear the voices from those shots I got;
“Come look at me, come here, come see, though Common we may be,
such butterflies as we are found for now! Oh don’t tear up our ground
of fescue by the sea…”
© Annie Pang May 2012.