Jessica Morgan McAtee
What is it about butterflying that makes it so alluring?
Most people will agree that they "like" butterflies. Often when I mention to folks that I am a Butterfly Conservationist they say, "I love butterflies". Yet, they mostly mean in an anecdotal way such as, they think butterflies are pretty or they believe their deceased love one visits them in butterfly form.
Often they flash their butterfly tattoo.
That is wonderful and I will take any positive response as a win for conservation. Yet, that's not what I mean when I say that I "love" butterflies.
Some of us take "love" to a whole different level. We chase, seek, identify, photograph, attract, study, observe, evangelize, ponder, protect, paint, and raise them.
Perhaps some gardeners, myself included, may be overly fascinated.
Dare I say, obsessed?
In giving this some thought, there are excellent, constructive and healthy reasons to get lost in this lovely past-time, and some are listed here.
It is Inexpensive
It costs nothing to observe butterflies. The internet provides all sorts of useful information to help explain what it is we have observed in the wild (this website is a great place to start). If one decides to attract them by creating a butterfly garden, there are some expenses but they are minimal compared to many other sports or hobbies.
They are everywhere
Butterflies live just about everywhere on earth. Some places see them year-round. Elsewhere they are seasonal flyers. Even then they are still present in colder months, just hiding out until the weather is more favorable. This is a hobby that can travel with you. Your wanderlust will only multiply the kinds you discover.
It can be a Challenge
Studying butterflies is a never-ending endeavor. With thousands of species on the planet, we have a lot to learn. Each type has a life-history, plant preference, curious caterpillar, wing pattern, chrysalis form, mating dance and skill-set that makes it unique and interesting. Observant citizen scientists like you make contributions to what we know about butterfly science regularly.
Observing Nature is Healthy
According to UC Berkeley's Greater Good Magazine, being in nature decreases stress, makes you happier, increases creativity, improves attention spans, makes one more kind and generous and makes you feel "more alive". If these were the only benefits it would be worthwhile.
Connecting to Nature is Instructive
We are all connected. Every thing is in a system with all others. The sun's patterns remind us that tomorrow is a new day. Plants illustrate how to survive and thrive within environmental limits. Rocks feed minerals to soil. The wisdom of the butterfly teaches us many lessons. We learn about endurance, humble beginnings, surprise endings, unexpected hope, and that change is necessary.
It builds Character
Nature doesn't move at our microwave pace. It's not instant. Once we get in-sync with the natural rhythms, we learn to be more patient and relaxed. Things happen in their own time, often without our coercion. We learn to let go.
Many religions and beliefs hold that God, Source, Life and Love are present in nature. In Christianity and Judaism life begins in a garden. Nature is a temple. In my own experience, I have received from the Divine often while in the butterfly garden. God is in the butterfly for those who wish to participate.
It benefits the Environment
As we learn about the wonders of nature, we are compelled to preserve, protect and share our knowledge with others. Awareness is heightened. This inspires conservation that ripples out like waves in a pond.
I can't help it
At the end of the day, even without one good "reason" to butterfly, I have to admit that I simply cannot help myself. Ever since I first learned to plant host plants, I have been utterly fixated. It is an undeniable part of my being. We each have at least one unique enthrallment and mine happens to be butterflies. So I will continue doing this.
May you find what makes you come alive, and go do that.
Jessica Morgan McAtee
If you have a butterfly tattoo or if you share my affinity for butterfly culture check out my blog, books and art on the subject.