Butterflies and Bouquets

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 4:30pm

Busted, my dog is busted!

Several days this summer I have come home to find her lying on the thick grass in the shade of the knotweed, the singular stand that has always been in place, a buffer, perhaps, from when the barn yard was truly that and twice a day cows trekked across it to the... barn to be fed and milked.

Autumn was outside, but both the front and back doors were closed, and while I do not have screens in my windows none of them are sliders, just the old fashioned two over two windows common to old farmhouses. She could, I imagine, jump out of them but there are no tell-tale scratches on the sill and she is not especially bold.

The folks who have horses in the reclaimed pastures sometimes let her out to play with their dog, or just be outside on a nice day, but they are careful and responsible and I know they put her back inside when they leave.

Off-season I sometimes let her remain outside when I go to town for a short time, but when I am gone whole days, especially in summer when are so many temptations for a friendly golden retriever in the form of beach-goers moving up and down Mansion Road, I do not chance it.

Other years I have left her tied on a lead long enough that she could go under the dark canopy of a tree or into the entry with its cool cement slab floor, but she was prone to digging holes when bored and seemed to think my filling them was part of a game. The house is in shade by afternoon, it is old and narrow and there are many cross breezes; it never gets truly hot inside.

And she often has those visitors; coming, I am sure she thinks, solely to see her.

Just a couple of days ago, again, I returned in the early evening and there she was, outside a closed door.

My doors are products of over-reaction passed down from my parents. There was a different back entrance, before my mother's father, a widower, old and frail when he came to live on this remote farm with his daughter, her husband and their little boy. On a blustery day the wind caught the door, he broke his arm, and my father immediately relocated the door. It now faces north, an absurdity in winter when the steps never feel the sun and can stay icy for days.

Years later, after the front entry had been added, I decided to go out in a near-hurricane and was unable to pull closed the modern, outward opening aluminum door. I didn't get hurt, but it was close enough for my parents. The days of outward swinging storm doors were over.

So, while Autumn might be able to nose her way out a sort of closed door, she would be unable to pull it shut behind her.

Then, I went upstairs the other morning, pushing the back door at the foot of the stairs sort of shut. There was only a hint of a breeze but there must have been enough to provide a nose-sized opening; I heard a tell-tale squeak, and looked out the window at the landing in time to see my golden girl creeping across the grass.

I went down, seriously closed that door, went round to the front of the house, and called her. She trotted in, took the treat offered, and kept going. I found her at the foot of the back stairs, her exit blocked, her plume of a tail descending into a “what happened?” droop.

That is the door, I finally realized, which can be blown closed, as the breeze moves through the house.

It has been warm, again, after a beautiful weekend. Yesterday, in a rare moment of it-is-too-hot-here I abandoned whatever I was doing and looked over my shoulder out across the yard, as though my gaze alone could summon the hoped-for breeze. The old garden plot, mowed, after several years wild, is more visible now that the gnarly olives are gone. It took an instant for it to register that I was seeing nearly grown pheasants, their youthful muted plumage even more monochromatic in the slanting afternoon light, but pheasants, certainly, a “bouquet” of pheasants I later learned. “Nye” was another possibility but, as a long-time friend put it: “Come on. Where's the poetry in that?” a sentiment I heartily endorse.

That warm afternoon I did not say anything, lest my voice carry through the open window and scatter the bouquet, but Autumn must have noticed some shift in me and felt obligated to offer a “woof” before going out to investigate whatever had captured my attention.

The birds scattered into the tall goldenrod, the whole lot of them, perhaps a full nest of survivors, gone from sight by the time Autumn had more ambled than run across the grass. Perhaps she has played this game before and knows she will never win.

A monarch flew by while I continue to dream of a breeze.

There seem to be more butterflies this year, one hanging on the frame of my window, another flittering in the door and beating a hasty retreat and, this morning, two on the far side of the one time lane that runs along the back wall of my house.

There seems to be more milkweed growing in empty fields that were mowed early, and I've learned of people who collect and protect the the cocoons until the butterflies are ready to emerge, then release them, close to where they were collected.

A collective of butterflies is a “kaleidoscope” someone else offers and I am hopeful, for social media, where “collective” conversation took place, for the natural world around us, rebalancing because and in spite of us, and for the delightful fact I still know people who continue to rejoice in arcane knowledge.