Mystery “butterfly?”

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About a week ago, I went for a stroll down the little nature trail in a local park. This little guy obligingly held still, checking the ground for minerals while I shoved my ridiculous cell phone right up his antenna to get a clear shot.

Well.

A nearly clear shot.

I miss my camera!

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I am having no luck identifying this little bug, though. It was light brown, held itself like a butterfly, flew like a butterfly, seemed to be hunting for minerals like a mud-puddling butterfly… and yet, it doesn’t look quite right for a butterfly. It was out around 2pm in the afternoon. I can’t find it in any guide to the mid-western or eastern U.S. It was small, only about the size of a blue or hairstreak.

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Ah, well. I wandered the forest path, blissfully unaware that my keys were missing. It wasn’t until I arrived at my car, still luxuriating in air golden with heat and humidity, that I discovered the loss. People talk about sound shattering the air, but that air, in the triple digits on the heat index, was impervious to the mere blare of a car alarm. The blanket of muzzy gaseous water just wrapped around the sound and smothered it. Shatter smatter, nothing would break that clingy heat.

It wasn’t as enchanting of a walk the second time round. I was just happy I didn’t get sick or faint. I stopped where I’d photographed the bug. It was gone, but my keys were there. One discovery!

One more to go… if anyone knows what type of wee beastie this is, I’d very much like to know.

butterfly at the park

I have resorted to using my cell phone camera. While there are some things that this works quite well for — grocery shopping lists, quick selfies, that information on the back of a book that I just don’t want to take down — it’s not quite so ideal for butterflies.

This, as best as I can identify, is common wood nymph. Despite the “common” appellation, it’s the first time I’ve seen one in this area. The bright yellow on the wings highlights the eyespots very clearly in the second shot.

It was lovely and, for a butterfly being relentlessly pursued by an annoying two-legged waving a cell phone, a good sport too.  🙂

Titanium All Around

I’ve moved!!

And now I’m surrounded by a lot more metal than ever before. Even when I lived in a (to me, HUGE) city, I was still somehow out in the suburbs, commuting in each day. Now I’m much closer to the heart of my city – one of those places where all of a sudden public transit is a reality and dinner is a quick stroll up the street. There’s construction and sirens and helicopters and guys talking to their battered shopping carts filled with the flotsam of life on the fringe.

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It’s a shock all right. There were no birds on my non-existent balcony, no rabbits snacking on the carefully planted flowers, no dapple-coated fawns wobbling across the dew-soaked lawn this morning. Yes. I miss the green.

The good news: there IS green about, and it’s not very far. It’s more of a treat than an everyday reality, but to be honest just trying to live in my old place, with its three flights of stairs that insisted on pitching and yawing like the deck of a schooner in high seas, took so much of my energy that I didn’t really have a chance to explore the green around me. This might be much, much better — as soon as I find my missing roasting pan and fix my camera lens.

Time will tell. Strangely, in this new place I’m increasingly reminded of the reasons why I decided on titanium for half of my blog title. Strong, light, and resilient, it can burn where nothing else can throw off light. I hope that, mixed in with my flitting butterfly migrations this summer, I might also absorb a little of my new environment and learn a bit of titanium’s properties as well.

In the meantime, I may yet learn urban photography. One can only hope…  🙂

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Zebra Butterfly – Fan Submission

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This shot was shared with me by a friend (whom I haven’t gotten to see in a long time). She saw the butterfly, thought of me, and then discovered the delights (meaning utter frustration and blinding satisfaction) of insect photography.

I’ve yet to get on on film myself (camera lens is acting up again, sorry folks!). I’m very happy she decided to share this one. There’s not many in our area. 🙂

 

First “hike” !!

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It was more of a slow saunter, really. I’m not actually physically capable of much more than that, but realistically I wouldn’t have wanted to rush the first enjoyable walk back home. Our footsteps were hushed by the fall of leaves and bark from stands of eucalyptus trees. The air was scented with sagebrush and manzanita baking under the sun, dust rising from the well-worn path, and water. Although it’s been such a wonderfully wet year that the grasses are just finishing their turn from green to brown – something that usually happens a few weeks earlier in the year – even humans with their puny noses can still smell water in the air. It doesn’t matter if the water is being sprayed by someone washing their car in the early morning hours, or if it is the reed-choked pond that comes into view around the bend in the path.

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We take a break there for my sake. I’m the only member of the party the mosquitos don’t bother, funnily enough. Instead they head for the repellent- and sunscreen-doused figures of my mother and sister. The pond’s shallow edges are a fascinating microcosm; tiny fish and tadpoles dart just under the surface of the water while dragonflies zing and stall in iridescent steaks above. The water spills into an irrigation channel dug and paved with carefully selected stones; the channel was first built in the early 1800s. It leads to cisterns and adobe houses, still maintained but now mostly for the benefit of the wondering public than for habitation… with a few exceptions. The whitewashed houses with red-brick roofs standing on the opposite hill still house the rangers who watch over this preserve.

We take a slightly different path on the way back. There are blackberries on the bushes, tiny flecks of color among the prickly thorns and the glossy green-and-red leaves of the poison oak that is intertwined with the bushes. I leave them alone. Some other creature less sensitive to poison oak will eat them before long.

The beetle blight and drought has taken a toll on the stand of old pine trees at the crown of a hill covered in waving dry grass and mustard. The huge bones of the trees lay fallen on the ground. Others stand, dry skeletons. They’re a tremendous fire hazard. The only comfort is that all around this area burned the year before, so at least the inevitable burn, which will be hot when fueled by that much dead timber, might be contained. Perhaps. The wind is already coming up, just like it does every day. It will usually reach 20 mph, more than enough to drive any wildfire quickly through the terrain and spot it into other areas. There’s a surreal sensation of looking at a future battle zone.

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We walk down the hill and cross the creek at the bottom. The last stretch is bordered by ancient pecan and walnut trees. Nestled among them are native flowers, and poppies bloom in the rocky soil on the opposite side. Hawks cry in the air and the brush rustles as cottontails burrow deeper. The butterflies dance on, unknowing, uncaring, and unafraid.

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It is good to be back.

Butterfly on the Go

Many different species of butterfly migrate, traveling long distances on fragile wings in journeys that cover thousands of miles.

I am on my own annual migration – vacation. Each year I travel home for Christmas and/or a couple weeks of summer. This year was a grand trip that will mean several important events – anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and graduations. I’m documenting what it is like to travel and vacation with a chronic illness. Already I am deeply envious of those butterflies, who seem to glide so gracefully through the air on their journeys … but even they face the odd storm.

The first challenge of The Vacation was setting dates. On top of the normal summer work/study that is a graduate student’s life, I had to also work around a rigorous schedule of doctor’s appointments, testing, and surgery. I tried pick dates when I wouldn’t be as sick [“you’ll be all better by then!” relatives sometimes insisted, and I would do my best not to try to explain the meaning of “chronic” and the difference between “treatment” and “cure” again.] I jammed as much medical stuff as I could into the weeks before The Vacation. And I paid out-of-pocket for medication refills that my insurance wouldn’t cover because it would run out before the end of the trip.

The next challenge was packing. I had enough medical paraphernalia to fill an entire carry-on and then some. My sister and I were going to travel together. We split a checked bag and I packed a few things into the extra-large duffel, hoping desperately it would make it through. Important medications went with me. My carry-on was definitely over the size limits, but fortunately no one made a point of it. I bought a portable sharps disposal container (it looks rather like a very very large crayon).

It has been working great. I had medications that needed to be kept cool, or better yet frozen. I purchased a medication cooler case online. I had no trouble making it through security with that or the medications. I told every single TSA agent I met that I had medical implants and a bag fully loaded with medical gear, and they could inspect it any way they liked! In the end my pack simply went on the conveyor belt through the machines, and a few whispered conversations later, I was just handed my bag at the end of the line. They were helpful and respectful the entire time. The hardest part was the endless standing in lines – to drop off checked baggage, use the bathroom, or get through security. I have POTS/VVS, and one of the challenges of that condition is standing for long periods of time. My heart races, my blood pools in my extremities, and I feel absolutely wretched. If it takes too long, I’m in danger of passing out. But I did NOT want a wheelchair! Instead I wore compression socks and imitated the children in the airport… I sat on my luggage or knelt on the ground when I needed a break. There was the occasion odd look but no comments, and I count it as a success.

Once through security, we learned our plane was broken and had to be fixed. It took so long they had to get new pilots!  By that point we’d spent so long at the airport that I’d needed to eat twice and take medications. The employees at Starbucks gave me hot water to mix medications in for free. No one looked at me oddly while I took pills. There was a sharps disposal unit on the wall of the women’s bathroom. And Smashburger has a simply AMAZING allergy app to help you find safe foods. In the end we raced a thunderstorm off the runway and into clear skies. It was a very positive experience even with the delay.

The plane was another story. It was cramped and uncomfortable. There wasn’t anything that I, with my food allergies, could eat. Even though the cabin was felt icy to me, my medications were thawing by this point, the little gel packs giving up after a lengthy battle against entropy. I asked for ice from the stewardesses and, after some discussion, they filled an air-sickness bag full of ice. My sister, capable and fierce travel companion that she is, helped me fill a sandwich bag with ice for the interior of medication case, then stuff the entire case into the barf bag of ice and wrap that in a jacket. It stayed cold the entire flight. While it might have been a little messy, we made it! And everyone was so helpful.

Finally, we picked up our luggage and our ride picked us up. We had to break the four-hour long drive home into legs, but after only 14 hours of travel, we made it to our home away from home.

Lessons learned: have food picked out at the airport ahead of time. However much food you pack with you … times by 1.5. I wasn’t the only one going through the lines with medical supplies, by any means, and I noticed the TSA seemed to handle it much easier if you declared it frequently and politely. Those who didn’t warn anyone took longer going through the checkpoints. I’m also going to see if I can’t find some tiny instant-ice packs. Supposedly, if they are deemed “medically necessary” there’s a chance they’ll be allowed through. On the homebound leg of this trip, I’ll traveling for 5-6 hours before even getting into airport security, and the first packs will already be…well, slush might actually be a tad too optimistic.

 

 

 

 

Bugs and Blooms!

Right before the rains hit, but before the term was really over, I slipped out to the local park and got a few pictures. It was a bit dark, so not the best picture taking time — and I learned that even if my lens was technically capable of shooting at a super-wide aperture, well… that doesn’t always give the most fantastic results!

Still learning, here. Work in progress.

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Does anyone know what the moth above is? I’m thinking it’s a “Pale Beauty.” I haven’t worked much with moths; normally I’m not shooting that late. But this one was striking against all the rich new green.

Pearl crescent butterfly; he teased me all through the clover underneath the trees until it was too shadowy to get a decent picture, and only then did he alight for a quick moment.

Happy spring!

Spring!

Somehow the first greening gold happened, in that glimmering way it does, and flitted by while I was recovering from a procedure. Warm soft breezes are alternating with rain like puppy teeth, needle sharp and bitey.

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Butthe butterflies are back! Cabbage whites are actually the abbreviated flirty white blurs in the corners of this raggedy expanse of green, which will be knee-deep in wildflower blooms – and chest-deep in spiny thistles! – in bare weeks. Coyly, they refused to come near and hold still for a picture. Next time. Spring is here!

 

Magic Monarchs

I remember the butterfly trees near my home. We’d walk through a forest on a silent trail, all sand and shredded bark. The air was Vicks Vapor-Rub and sea foam, sharp and clean. And then the sunlight would strike a tree and a breeze would ruffle leaves, leaves that unfurled into fluttering wings, magic shimmering in a gold beam, rustling drily. Then the sun would go behind the curtain of fog, the breeze would die down, and all was silent in the forest again. The butterfly trees. Find one someday if you can.

Migrating Monarchs Arrive in Mexico