The Solstice Butterfly – Annie Pang

The solstice is here.  Today marks Midsummer.  Midsummer?  Whatever happened to spring?  Here in Victoria and in other parts of the country many are left wondering this very thing, but knowing I’m not alone doesn’t make me feel much better.  Where has the time gone?  Where did it fly to and how did it get away from me for yet another year?  Another year.  What does that mean?  I don’t know what it means for you, but for me it means another year I’ve struggled through and survived, another year I’ve watched our island butterfly population decline, another year filled with memories of old friends both lost and new ones found, another year of growth and promise, of hopes dashed and reborn, of witnessing destruction and rebirth.

Today I wanted to focus on dancing the dance of balance, of being in the midst of things without getting caught in the middle… and of course, always searching for that innermost part of me that I shared with each new butterfly I encountered.  Today was no exception and the angels in my life came in a very strange and unexpected form.

The fact that it was Midsummer was at the back of my mind this morning because there was something I knew I had to do but I didn’t know what that was, or if I did, I was afraid to look at it too closely, fearful that I might not find what I was looking for, that it might have been destroyed.  But then I checked for messages and had received one from a friend telling me she had spotted several Western Tiger Swallowtails in her neighborhood a short while ago.  I couldn’t go out yet so I gave her a call.  Yes she had seen four or five around her area two of which were in her own backyard.  Why was it that there were none in our neighborhood nearby, where there used to be so many?  She also mentioned that she might have seen another butterfly, one that I had been looking for in vain for a few weeks now.  Unknowingly my friend set things in motion that would shape my own celebration.  The first touch of an angel.

I became hopeful.  The habitat in that area where my hope lay had been destroyed for one species of butterfly already despite my warnings to the municipality that the park belonged to.  The Western Elfin was not to be found in Esquimalt Gorge Park earlier this spring because all of its larval food sources had been unceremoniously pulled up in favor of the installation of a Japanese garden.  It was very pretty, to be sure but I missed the old heritage roses and the ecosystem that used to exist there as well as the privacy in the sheltered Rose Garden that was now gone, along with so much lavender, and so many bees buzzing to feed on it, and places and spaces for the dragonflies to perch and sun their wings.  I missed all the poetry that I remember writing in that small haven of peace where the Western Elfins used to mate on the leaves of roses.

There still was one big question mark in my mind.  Would the Lorquin’s Admiral return to this place?  Historically, the Rose Garden had always been a place where I would find my first of these butterflies for the season.  I decided to look at Gorge Park first, where the Mock Orange shrubs must surely be in bloom by now.  I was not mistaken but there was no evidence of a single Western Tiger Swallowtail or any other butterfly for that matter.  I had foreseen this years ago but I found it hard to believe that where there had once been many there was now none – not at all.  Profoundly depressed I turned and walked away, camera devoid of pictures and heart heavy.

I decided I could not put off any longer facing the Japanese Garden.  It was but a short distance away and I had to know one way or another; I had to know if I could dance the dance of renewal and rebirth… and hope.  We got into the van and went to Esquimalt Gorge Park.  There was a stand of Aspen’s at one end where I liked to park because of the shade and there we found another angel’s touch – an empty spot on a warm day like today.  I grabbed the camera and got out.  Seeing the sun growing a bit tired and hazy, feeling lazy for having to put in the longest shift of the year, Midsummer,  I lifted my face to the sky and called to the sun “This is your day to shine!”.  I wonder if She heard me, the sunshine that was all that was hopeful in my heart.

I headed purposefully to what used to be, in order to face what was here, now.  Across the parking lot, past the main garden, I slowed down and entered the Japanese Garden looking for anything, but hoping for the Admiral to be there, waiting for me as he always has every year, on the same evergreen bush.  Now there was water rushing artificially between the bush and where I stood and no butterfly.  But I knew better and I waited, closing my eyes and envisioning my dear Admiral alighting on top of a bit of greenery, opening his lovely wings to sun, his darkness readily absorbing heat, his determination chasing off all competition and his devotion to his home absolute.  I heard the running water and I accepted it, and I accepted this garden because there was nothing I could do about it and it represented some continuation and hope for others – maybe even some day for myself.

Composed and calm, I opened my eyes and looked around and saw beauty, even if it wasn’t of my choosing.  And then he came to me just as I knew he would.  Fast and black, chasing off the single and tattered Western Tiger Swallowtail, I saw him and I knew where he would land and when he did I was ready.  Taking his pictures, dancing the dance of coyness and aggression, we danced together, the Admiral and I.  He let me get close only to fly off and perch somewhere across man-made water.  This wasn’t like other years where no such barriers existed.  I loved every minute – it was all that I had hoped for.  He had returned to this place for a continuance of his own kind and this reassured me that no matter what mankind does, this fellow and his wives and children would survive it all.  And, hopefully, survive us too.

He was flawless.  I took shot after shot.  Sometimes his wings were folded but mostly he liked to land and spread his shoulders showing the darkness and the light and the points of sunshine-orange on the tips of each forewing.  With the white “V” on his back contrasting the black velvet of him, I raced him, I chased him and I sat down and sang to him.  Sometimes he would even perch close by, so close that my camera could grab him and hold him.  Such was our Solstice celebration.  What it meant to me I cannot put into words but I came away feeling sublime and at peace.  Another old friend had returned, another angel had blessed me with Its presence… and I was grateful.

This brief poem was scratched out in my kitchen as the words battered my tired head.  Happy Midsummer.  Happy Summer Solstice, and let us always strive for what is pure and good.  I have to believe it is never too late…

The Solstice Butterfly


While dreaming a mid-summer’s dream,

the Admiral found me by the stream.

We danced ourselves a love affair

that pulled me out from my despair.

Your shoulders opened for me, wide;

I wonder who will be your bride

for to another I belong—

and yet this day will sing our song

of Summer Solstice’s sunny ray.

Your memories won’t fly away

on wings of darkness tinged with Sun —

for a new beginning has begun…

© Annie Pang June 20, 2012


About annieandterry

This is a blog shared by two friends who have never met in person, Annie Pang and Terry Thormin. We both live on Vancouver Island, Annie in Victoria and Terry in Comox. All communication to date has been either by email or telephone. We are both passionate about nature and conservation and we are both nature photographers. Annie is also a very fine poet and was a concert violinist, while Terry worked as an entomologist for the Royal Alberta Museum until he retired in 2005. We hope you enjoy this joint effort to share our nature musings with anyone who is interested.

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Happy Solstice to you Annie!
    Beautiful photos and writing too!
    I feel for you and the Elfin, I loved that rose garden!
    We would go often to watch the European wall lizards.
    I miss it, but we’ll get used to the new park. It is lovely and peaceful.

  2. Happy Solstice to you too, Carolyn! Thank you for your lovely comments. The Elfin can be found in other places I went too but there weren’t as many this year, largely due to the weather, I think. But destruction of habitat is a major issue for our butterflies and other wildlife and is ongoing, as you know. I’ve photographed the lizards quite often, and they are still there – I saw one scurry off while walking around. Unfortunately a lot of hummingbirds used to be found in this area as well and they enjoyed the sheltered privacy of that rose garden. So much was “cleared out” that it has caused them to move elsewhere as well. I used to be able to see them and photograph them easily but no longer – not there.
    Yes, the Japanese Garden is, as I said, very pretty, and maybe in time as the vegetation gets more mature, or taller, I will like it better, especially if I see more wildlife returning that left.
    Thanks for your comments, once again. AP

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