Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The poetic joy of a butterfly August 17, 2022

An Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly atop a zinnia. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

EVERY TIME I SPOT A BUTTERFLY, joy surges through me. There’s something about the flitting flight of a butterfly that captivates me.

But it’s more than that. I appreciate how these insects appear so carefree, as if their very existence is simply to bring beauty and joy into the world. And maybe it is.

The butterfly perches among my favorite garden flowers, zinnias. My mom planted zinnia seeds when I was growing up on the farm. Zinnias are easy to grow from seed, are prolific, hardy and colorful. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

In recent days, I’ve observed two swallowtail butterflies, one black, the other yellow, among the phlox growing wild in my flowerbeds. And some 10 days ago I photographed an Eastern tiger swallowtail atop a zinnia at the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Garden in Faribault.

That well-tended garden has become a new favorite oasis for me within the city limits. On the Sunday afternoon I visited the garden, I found friends Paula and Ed already there, resting on a bench. Paula was involved early on with development of this garden. She no longer is, but remains an active gardener. Paula was the one who spotted the swallowtail among the zinnias.

Per her direction, I headed to the zinnia patch to photograph the yellow swallowtail with wings outlined in black, splotches of blue and orange adding to the coloring.

Black-bordered wings are nearly wide open atop a zinnia. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

The swallowtail perched, unhurried atop the yellow-centered pink flower. I had plenty of time to snap multiple frames. That’s often not the case with butterflies.

That butterflies survive a four-stage life cycle from egg to larva (caterpillar) to pupa (chrysalis) to adult butterfly impresses me. At any one stage, a predator could end their lives. But yet, here was this beautiful butterfly among the zinnias. Like the final verse in a lovely summer poem.

TELL ME: What do you appreciate about butterflies? Do you have a favorite?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “The poetic joy of a butterfly”

  1. Lovely post. We have some very small butterflies here, along with the more common bigger ones. I don’t know what they are, but it amazes me that such beauty can be found in something so small. Like a tiny, flying work of art. ❤

  2. beth Says:

    I think they are like fairies, flitting and floating through the world, happy in spite of the many dangers around them. each year, my class and I raise painted ladies from egg to adult and the children love watching and being a part of the process. when they are ready, we take them outside and release them into the world to be free and to keep the circle of life moving as it is meant to. they live such short lives, they make the most of every moment and we could take a lesson from them. lovely, lovely shots –

  3. BEAUTIFUL Captures 🙂 Made my day! I love the winged beings in my world – butterflies, dragonflies, bees, birds, etc. Love to watch them dance and float and dance and do their thing. I believe they are reminders of our love ones no longer here, like Cardinals remind me of my spouse’s grandmother. They also are very telling to what is going on in the environment too. We have a healthy population of bees along with butterflies and dragonflies in our yard as well as birds and bats and possums. Happy Day – Enjoy

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    Any butterfly is my favorite— we have a lot in our flowers as well and I have planted butterfly bushes despite locals saying they aren’t native flowers. Too bad. I like them. 😉 Great photos as always, Audrey.

  5. Love butterflies! Love your pictures of them too!!!🦋🦋🦋
    That garden sounds like a perfect place to hang out😊🌱

  6. Valerie Says:

    Nice photos!
    I saw a Black swallowtail (other identified it) yesterday on the bike trail. I captured an ok photo of it. 😉

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