Historically, the new year started with the warming of the seasons; it is why, Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, does not start in January, but in March–because it is tied to spring. The shift from winter into the summer months. A time of renewal, of rebirth. Of change.
This is a time of things waking up after long hibernation; flowers, streams, animals–and insects…like butterflies. Butterflies are a symbol of springtime, coming out of their winter-time sleep to start adorning your favorite petals like jewel-studded accessories.
Dr. Charles De Gannes, a butterfly collector from Trinidad, gave some interesting insight into the life cycle of butterflies. While the egg, caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly process is well-known, there are two aspects of this that are of note: firstly, the eggs are laid within a few days of the butterfly emerging from its cocoon; secondly, eggs are laid on food plants to allow the caterpillars to thrive. What this means is that when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are already located on their own personal smörgåsbord. This is also why butterflies are mostly seasonal; in Trinidad, more during the rainy season, when it is more lush; in North America, during spring, when things are blooming and blossoming.
Dr. Charles De Gannes with his collection of Blue Emperor butterflies.
This laying of the eggs on food-plants gives rise to some very localized species of butterflies, some found within just a 200-yard area within the island of Trinidad. So while there are butterfly families which are quite large–like the hesperides family, the common (typically brown) ones–there can be very rare subspecies of butterflies that exist only in certain areas.
if in one garden
a hibiscus bush
can exist alongside
proteas, fuschia, gladiolas,
then surely we women
can bloom together
and create a garden.
When you witness a butterfly, you don’t immediately think, “I’ve seen better.” You, instead, admire its beauty for what it is. While the brightly colored and flashy butterflies tend to be males, the females being more drab, they all exist alongside each other–the beauty of one not diminishing from the other, but instead, adding together to one large spectacular showing of nature’s jewels. Even the hesperides butterflies have value within this larger context–with varying wingforms, colors, sizes–and when you look at them as part of the whole, you just see beauty.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If we are so focussed on the achievements, beauty, sparkling and bright moments of others, we miss our own achievements; our own beauty; our own sparkling and bright moments.
It is so easy to get caught in the rat-race, of comparing yourself and where you are in life, to others; their external accomplishments. But what of your own metamorphosis?
The greatest change a butterfly undergoes happens in darkness, when they dissolve into a pile of goo, to then remake themselves. The process happens tucked away from the light. Most of your personal, emotional, and spiritual development is the same; happening in the dark, out of the light–and unseen by anyone. Yet, like the butterfly, you emerge, totally changed; from being a caterpillar on your very own leaf, to a butterfly, flying off to horizons unknown.
This summer, collect mementoes of beauty; whether it be a butterfly wing, a fallen flower-petal, a memory of basking in the sun. Observe the beauty of the world waking around you, to remind yourself of the beauty within you. For nature is the greatest teacher of all–in all seasons, in all shapes and forms.
Trinidad is very unique for butterfly collecting, having a large variety of species–more than in other Caribbean islands, North America, or the U.K.
According to Dr. De Gannes, “To me, butterflies are a reflection of the wealth of the natural history of Trinidad… We are a great place for butterflies, and that’s because we were once a part of South America, up until about 11,000 years ago, we were attached to Venezuela through the Icacos peninsula. And you’ll find the same with our fauna and all our flora, we have far more species than you’ll find up the islands, because we have what is referred to as a mainland flora and fauna, as compared to islands which have an island flora and fauna, which are far more limited.”
Thereby, a butterfly collector in Trinidad can devote their life to exploring the different species in Trinidad and never fall short. And Dr. De Gannes would like to encourage any with the propensity towards butterfly collecting, to do so–for there is a lot of territory to be explored.