August commences a subtle transition. We harvest the bounty of summer gardens — the flavorful vegetables, the succulent fruit — and yet at the same time, sense a certain weariness. So much energy spent, all the plants and wild animals having bloomed or birthed and grown and yielded. Even the bees and the butterflies — fewer now — seem sluggish and disoriented.
I saw a checkered white fluttering strangely within the cupped contours of a strawberry leaf as I was walking my yard this morning. She seemed unable to get her balance.
As I bent closer, I saw why: The wings on the left side of her body were gone. So was half of the body itself, everything beyond her thorax. One set of legs had gone missing.
Perhaps a bird had captured and then dropped her; perhaps the previous day’s fierce rain, bearing pea-sized hail, struck with such force that it tore her apart.
However it happened, the butterfly could not reliably keep herself upright, let alone fly. She could not digest, even if she could manage to find nectar. Her little life — likely no more than a month, under favorable circumstances — was functionally over.
Soon, a hungry bird would spot the beat of her papery, useless half-wings. Or, the next rain would drown her in the deep end of a leafy pool, or tangled in the sodden grass. Or, she would just starve. Her time as a butterfly — those fleeting days, full of peril and grace — was done. All that was left was the waiting.
I studied the little checkered white, and the space, too, where she used to be: the missing wings, legs, abdomen. I wondered how she experienced her truncated life. I thought of her crippled flutter, its perfect symmetry: how in one instant it embodied both suffering, and — in its clarion call to predators — an end to suffering. I wished her well.
Then I set her gently in the grass near one of my light Brahma chickens.
She fluttered once before the hen took her. And was gone.