Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Last Red Admiral

"All in a golden afternoon full leisurely we glide" Lewis Carrol used those lines as a preface or foreword to Alice in Wonderland. They popped into my head long after I had read the book and even longer after I thought I had remembered any of it. I don't know why those words captured my imagination, but they seem to capture the languor of a sun still full with summer intensity but hanging low in the sky hinting at its coming absence.

We recently had just such a golden afternoon. After planting bulbs and clearing out weeds and debris from the ruined kitchen garden, I surrendered to the languor of the afternoon. My cats had kept me company as they went about the busy work of cats--chasing, tussling, tree climbing, pouncing, and exploring. Sheba, the adult female, has decided to accept the two young ones and even takes time now to show them the necessary skills of climbing and pouncing. Bow, conspicuously smaller even than his brother, struggles to keep up. When Sheba climbed on to the roof of a garden shed, Button scampered up after her and the two of them played King of the Hill, looking down on their domain. Bow tried climbing to the roof up a sheer slate rock wall rather than the convenient climbing tree his brother and Sheba had used. After three valiant efforts, he retired to a spot in the sun.

In time all four cats settled in for a nap in the sun. They seemed not to mind that most of the tall grass previously used for their napping had been reduced to the semblance of a lawn. The winds which define the weather here must themselves have been asleep in the sun because there was no breeze. In the stillness I heard the ocean breathing gently and the wing beat of a low flying pigeon overhead.

In this peaceful, still world a butterfly introduced himself to a weed that had been marked for destruction. My indolence left the yellow flowers for this late-blooming butterfly and their choreography. The Red Admiral flew with the precision to send his proboscis down the narrow flower. He went about his business unaffected by my presence as I pored over his eyes--nearly lost in the blue-back of his head, the careful stripes on his antennae, and the lustruous blue black of his body where it merged into the russet red of the wings. I grew impatient to have him settle and open his wings for me to admire their bright pattern when I noticed that the underside of his wings was a fabulous pattern like the marbling on the end papers of an antique book with subtle, soft shades swirling and celebrating their rich complexity.

In his own time, the Last Red Admiral of the season finished courting the dainty yellow flowers and moved on. The cats edged into the shade or back onto their own business. The ocean woke from its nap and the more familiar sound of the surge returned. The wind grew lively enough to tug at my hair and with that activity the golden afternoon was dissolved.


At 6:14 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Even if you never saw the top side of the butterfly's wings, you still got to admire! his beauty. In the same vein! an acquaintance at work told me of his son, who enrolled in a local Catholic college in the future-priest curriculum, only to discover that that was not really his vocation, but decided he did not make a mistake to enroll--that God was leading him to enroll not so he could become a priest but so he could become closer to God. The person thot that was a mature reaction on the part of his son and I do too.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh ampiggy I love the things we discover on our way to where we think we are going. You are so right about being open to those "surprises"--the special gift of the underside of the wing.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

absolutely lovely writing. I was there with you, lazing in the sun.

(actually, I only wished I was, and went and turned on the heat instead!)

At 1:18 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Hayden, I wish you had been there, too. I would have brewed us some sun tea. The weather here is Autmnal, which is really pretty good for us. We have had just one mini-gale that huffed and puffed and dropped just a bit of rain and then moved on but no more golden afternoons I am afraid.


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