Spring colors bring life to front lawn
April 19, 2005
All last week, our front lawn was a profusion of color. Splashes of bright yellow bloomed across the newly green grass, and anything that disturbed the peace would cause the yard to erupt in movement.
The perky yellow painted against the tender green was only a million new dandelions. I’m so desperate for spring and flowers and color that I don’t mind them, but then again, as I’m sure will be pointed out to me, I’m not the one who has the full time chore of trying to eradicate the pests from the lawn. The motion was something else again, altogether.
At the slightest disturbance, dozens of orange and brown butterflies would take flight, swirling around the juniper bushes and the baby buds beginning to sprout on the branches of the Russian olives trees.
I don’t remember a spring with this many butterflies. They were everywhere. I mourned each one that got sucked against the car’s grill when I’d reluctantly drive into a cloud of the lovely winged things, but I could hardly stop and wait for them to get out of the way, like I do for the rabbits that cross my path. Sometimes it takes me forever to get home in the spring.
This week, the butterflies seem to be gone. Another sign that spring is moving forward to more consistent warm weather, but still, I liked them. I’m sorry to say I don’t know what kind of butterfly they were, and I should.
I feel sort of like it’s my duty to know. I’m writing about them, I need to know.
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When I was a little girl, spending my summers in Minnesota, my cousins had the same school assignment every summer vacation. I can’t recall which grade assigned it, but it was a rite of passage I watched each cousin reach in turn and one they let me take part in every year.
The assignment was to catch one of each kind of butterfly and moth indigenous to the area, and, after preserving it, pin it, wings outspread, to a large poster board and then label it.
In this small town, everyone got involved, and no one went anywhere without a butterfly net lest you come across a perfect specimen with no way to capture it. I remember watching the butterflies breathe their last in closed baby food jars that held a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. Seeing a wild thing up close was a thrill, and at the same time to watch it die was horrifying to a child.
The common white “cabbage” butterfly was the first to be caught. They were everywhere. The hardest to find and last to become a trophy was the beautiful Monarch, with the orange and brown “eyes” showing on its enormous wings.
Our butterflies reminded me a little of the Monarchs. Perhaps a western relative? I will have to find out. I wish they would have stayed around a while longer.
But, I have a feeling I’ll have the dandelions to look at for duration of the summer. They were gone for a few hours on Saturday when my husband mowed them down, but I noticed this morning that they were back. I’m secretly glad to see their sunny yellow against the morning’s green grass.
Don’t tell my husband.
— Pegi Webster writes the Johnson Lane Journal every other week. She can be reached at 267-3820 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.