The Mourning Cloak in May, Gorge Park – Annie Pang

It may well be a year since I last wrote a blog so I thought it was high time I did.  So much has changed on this planet, just in the passed year.  It boggles the mind.  Almost everyone I meet has gone so hi-tech that I feel like a fish out of water.  So getting out in nature is all the more grounding and important, even if my walks are brief these days. 
 
Here in Victoria it is hot and the sun feels scorching.  Many friends and people I meet when I am out have told me how different the sun is feeling and I also feel it more and more myself. A harshness that seems to grow with each passing season.  It is troubling.
 
Former sun worshippers I know are seeking shade, although many younger folks don’t seem to realize the dangers of our thinning ozone layer.  I admit I have very low tolerance for heat…a strange thing for someone born and raised in Toronto.  But I haven’t lived in Toronto for 35 years now and I have witnessed such changes in Victoria’s climate, especially in the last 15 years, that I find it truly alarming.
 
These days, I must go out completely covered prior to 4pm to protect myself (doctor’s orders!) no matter how hot it is.  Not great for looking for butterflies, but the sun on my skin doesn’t feel pleasant this time of year the way it used to and after this past year I know only too well how deadly the sun’s rays can be.
 
This last week I have seen five different species of butterflies in Gorge Park but they were not landing until I walked into the territory of a Mourning Cloak this afternoon and got lucky.  Happily, the companion I was with at the time was happy to wait with me while I tried a few “tricks” to get this lovely butterfly to land so I could get a few shots.  And few they were indeed!  This butterfly is probably one of our longest local living butterflies, sometimes living for up to 11 months.  It is a hibernator, and over winters even in the prairies.

Mourning cloak 1
 
I had seen it a few days prior but it was illusive and I was short of time and never saw it except in passing.  Today I had a bit more time and it definitely had a territory to defend, and my hat seemed to be attracting it.  Its wings are tattered as one would expect in an old butterfly.  It will mate and die and then in the fall or maybe sooner, it’s offspring will emerge.  I have never had the luck of finding a fresh, young Mourning Cloak though, so all my pictures are of older ones. 
 
I believe the Mourning Cloak is so-named because it’s wings are dark and trimmed with a creamy-lacy fringe on the dorsal sides of the wings, resembling a long, dark cloak.  I wanted to share this with you and hope you get out and look for butterflies this spring and summer.  With the climate changing so quickly and society speeding up faster than I feel I can keep up, my time in Nature becomes more and more precious to me. 
 
It is something we just can’t afford to take for granted any longer and there are no easy answers any longer.  My only answer is to keep writing when I can, and try to raise awareness where I can.
 
Be well and I do hope you enjoy this latest tale, poem and two poetographs.  If I happen on other wildlife including butterflies, I hope to write about them again.

Mourning cloak 2
 
The Mourning Cloak
 
In the stifling heat getting late in the day
while walking a path in the middle of May
inhaling the pollen ’til I thought I might choke
I happened upon an old Mourning Cloak!
Over wintered, now flying so wild and free,
it flew dizzying circles all about me.
In the stifling heat getting late in the day
it flirted and skirted in territorial play
gliding upwards and downwards and this way and that
never landing until …well, I took off my hat!
I then set it down on a branch in a tree
and prayed that the butterfly’d come look and see.
For so few butterflies have I had time to find
too chained to the drudgery of the daily grind.
I asked once again, “please dear creature please land,
I’m weary and almost too tired to stand”.
It came!  It returned and it landed right there
and then opened it’s wings up both tattered and fair.
I’m old, said those wings, but there’s still time to fly
and I got in these shots before it flew to the sky.
How grateful I was with my spirit renewed
that this creature of God had so altered my mood.
Oh yes, I was stifled and terribly hot
but for this moment in time, all my troubles forgot
I was dancing with Nature like an old Garry oak,
a bit old and tattered like the old Mourning Cloak.
It was time to go home and get out of the heat
and leave the dear soul to return or retreat
and be wild and free with the time that it had;
I walked up the path then, both happy and sad…
The full moon has risen and the heat carries on;
it is night as I write in the hours of pre-dawn.
Tomorrow will come far too soon it would seem
leaving this day behind in a hot, hazy dream…
© Annie Pang May 14, 2014

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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 May 15, 2014, in environment, Nature, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Very pleased to have you back Annie. I hope that you will blog regularly again. Your photographs and texts were great and your poetry very touching.

    • Thank you Charley. I was so very happy to be able to photograph this one I had to write about it. Honestly, I don’t even remember writing the poem as it was so late at night which is when I do my writing! Hope more comes my way.

  2. Colleen Raymond

    Very delightful poem and photos, Annie! Thank you!

  3. Lovely, Annie! Sorry it took so long for me to get to your post. Terry’s pics are stunning too!

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