Glimpsing Danaus Plexippus*

Luke 24:36b-48 – The 3th Sunday of Easter – for April 22, 2012

“You are witnesses of these things…” (Luke 24:48)

I swerved, just missed a butterfly smacking me.


(Image by via Flickr)

However—since I’m a 200-pound guy, and I rode my bicycle at 20mph, and a goofy-looking helmet protected my noggin—should it be: I avoided hitting a butterfly?

After all, who would’ve suffered more from actual impact? Chunky Larry or Madame Butterfly?

I’d been dashing along the bike trail, admiring the scenery, alert to other bicyclists and the occasional walker, mostly minding my own business. Then, whoosh! On the extreme left side of my peripheral vision, a winged creature spiraled into view. Duck…swerve…whoa! All creatures great and small survived the near miss.

It was my second butterfly encounter within the week. A few days before I lounged in a lawn chair after finishing yard work. Just passing the time. Just enjoying a spring afternoon. And then, floating by the orange tree, I spotted a monarch butterfly. For a leisurely moment, the Danaus plexippus did what butterflies do so wondrously well: it flitted about, a splash of brash gold and black against the tree’s green backdrop. Unlike an anxious, frenetic hummingbird or the proverbial buzzing (and so business-like) bee, the butterfly bided its time.

I watched, amazed at how my mind wandered until the insect disappeared into the neighbor’s yard.

Didn’t I see more springtime butterflies when I was a kid? Was that because I was a curious kid rather than a busy adult? Or, with the continuing onslaught of asphalt and concrete, with pesticides and global warming, have humans made the world more perilous for monarchs and their fellow winged Lepidopteras? I fear it’s more the latter than the former.

I then thought of Dan, a friend and pastor in the California town of Pacific Grove, the self-proclaimed “butterfly capital of the world.” There, monarchs arrive from a two thousand mile journey, creating an annual explosion of fragile glory. Viewing my temporary backyard companion prompted a brief prayer for Dan. I enjoyed the winged reminder of my buddy. Continue reading →