Except for certain small children, everyone looks happy in a butterfly conservatory.
If it’s a dreary November day and I’m feeling dull headed, I think of the nearest butterfly sanctuary, half an hour from home, and wonder whether I have enough time to head there now!
The warmth and humidity of the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory are a pleasure in themselves. In addition to the 30 species of butterflies, I enjoy the pond with its two turtles; the display of chirping finches, quail and doves; and the loud colorful parrot, all living within a habitat of tropical foliage. I enjoy watching the chrysalides hanging by the Emergence Window, as well as the recently emerged butterflies, drying off their wings on the ground before taking their first flight.
The common conservatory butterflies are all there – the small postman, the rice paper, the owl butterfly, the blue morpho and various swallowtails. It’s especially fun to watch small children and their mums or dads. The wee ones have such unpredictable reactions – from squeals of delight to vigorously shaking- it-off when a butterfly alights on them.
In wintertime, I try to go at least once a month, on a sunny day if possible, taking a friend with me. We try to identify each species, then have lunch or coffee in the snack shop onsite….
I first paid attention to butterflies at Longwood Gardens, west of Philadelphia. There in one of the perennial gardens on a hot summer day, Sam snapped the photo which I used to say goodbye to the people of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, the first congregation I served. (To “capture” a butterfly on film seems almost a sacrilege.)
Inside the card I had these words printed:
“Today we are suspended in mid-air. We cannot know all that our new beginnings will hold. We carry both sadness about what is ending and anticipation of what is beginning. We can alight on that new flower with confidence, knowing that God in Christ goes with us always.”
…Often when watching butterflies, I recall that they have long been a Christian symbol of resurrection from nature, joining others such as the lily, the pomegranate, the peacock, the phoenix, and the lowly egg. I’ve included butterflies in Easter sermons from time to time, and reveled in the joy of the children when some monarchs were released as part of a graveside service for a child. Recently, I watched a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, dripping wet. I saw it drop from the chrysalis to the walking path, where I had to be careful not to step on it and the others there.
The wings of these newly hatched butterflies were closed, but from time to time they opened briefly, offering a glimpse of the iridescent blue of the owl butterfly or the red and white design of the small postman or the brilliant orange of the Julia.
As I watched the butterflies drying off I thought…surely our resurrection lives will surprise us with colour and intricate design as we dry off our wings…they will be so different from what we know now that there’s no point in speculating much about it. We can only wonder….Christ has gone before us, and surely that’s enough….
Questions for Reflection:
What symbols of resurrection animate your spirit?
Do you have a favorite butterfly? If so, which one?
Next week: The Icon of the Old Testament Trinity