The breakfast dishes are done, the dog is walked, the bed is made. Time to retire to the front porch with a cup of coffee to sit in the morning sun.
Cicadas whir in the trees overhead. There’s a hint of a breeze. The air stirs the compound leaves on the wisteria vine. Down in the front yard, among the long dried stems of the black-eyed Susans, a pair of white butterflies flutter about, exploring the last spoils of summer.
When I was a boy, my friend and I used to stalk butterflies in the expanse of fields near our home: cabbage butterflies, white with black wingtips and two dark insignia dots on the wings; golden sulfurs; tiny coppers and azures; orange monarchs; fluted swallowtails; admirals and fritillaries.
Inexperienced trappers at first, we used our cupped hands to capture our prey. Later we fashioned butterfly nets from old red nylon onion bags, wire coat hangers and broomstick handles. We experimented with killing jars—gas chambers made from our mothers’ mason jars with rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton balls stuffed into the bottom.
We mounted our specimens with straight pins and glued typewritten labels below to identify each one.
Sometimes the wing scales would inadvertently rub off onto the tips of our fingers, and we would scrape this precious dust onto glass slides to peer in wonder through the lens of a small microscope I had ordered through the mail.
In school we learned how a caterpillar spins a cocoon and hibernates all winter to emerge the following spring, changed utterly—boldly turned into another creature, this one winged; and, like the cherry blossoms, ethereal.
As adults, few of us pause to consider the wonder of such transitions. We accept them as fact, and attend to other, more pressing things.
Yet on this bright morning after an overnight rain, I sip my coffee and ponder the sight of another pair of small miracles flitting about in the remnants of the flower garden; and catch a glimpse of wonder from a boyhood long since passed.