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The Butterfly Monitors

The Butterfly Monitors updated1:12The Butterfly Monitors

My grand opening was this past Saturday. It was attended by my family and a few close friends~what a special day and thank you to all of you who came! When the dust was settled we looked at each other with wild eyes:”Did YOU take pictures???” Nope. None of us did. Ah, well. So today I am sharing a piece that hasn’t appeared here, as near as I can tell. I painted it some years back when I was still wielding a butterfly net for the Chicago Academy of Sciences and The Nature Conservancy. Ah, my glory days! We sure had a wonderful time out there with those big sweeps of sky and plants, helping keep track of butterfly populations. This is a way of monitoring land management practices~if the butterflies are thriving, we must be doing things right.

From time to time I want to include people in my paintings because I think our role in nature is an important one. I believe that if we try to remove people from our natural areas, this give rise to the push-back we sometimes see, with people rising up and trying to reverse our laws that protect our species, air and water. Rather than exclude people from the scene, I feel it is better to get them out there and teach them how to relate to the natural world that is sustaining to both. Those of us who love nature are prone to scowling at interlopers with their noise and litter….let us, instead, be teachers and leaders.

Americans are a restless bunch, and this prevents people from connecting with where they are. We see ads to travel, and become convinced that “somewhere else” is far more glamorous than “here”. How much richer our experience of daily life would be if each of us could learn the natural history of where we are, and get involved with keeping it healthy.

I know I’ve touched on this before. I hope I am not repeating myself too much.


30 thoughts on “The Butterfly Monitors

  1. Congratulations on your Grand Opening! I hope the gallery is a successful venture for you.

    This painting is wonderful! It takes me way back to the times I would take my son with his butterfly net out to the meadow to see if we could catch a few to observe for a short time then release.

    We never caught any, but had a blast running in the meadow chasing them, and finding other insects along the way.

    1. I love this story, Deborah!

  2. “…be teachers and leaders…” I like that thought.

  3. Thank you, Jim.

  4. Congrats on your grand opening. Exciting! I am guilty as charged about often wanting to be someplace else more scenic. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate the subtle beauty of where I live, even if it’s not as spectacular as where I want to be.

    1. Thank you Angela!
      You’re right, living where the beauty is subtle can really challenge our ability to appreciate it. For years I’ve wrestled with it.

  5. Congratulations! Whoopie! Wishing you great success. I love the people in your image. It adds a certain amount of charm and a message, too! I sometimes like to include people in my shots for a suggestion of scale or whatever.

    1. Haha, yes, Whoopie! 🙂 It is so much fun. I’m glad you like the people. At first I was tentative about it but I’m beginning to think I should really look for opportunities to do so. And you’re right, they are useful for scale.

  6. Congrats on your opening – wishing you great success.
    Amen to the rest of your post – we really need to get folks outside, falling in love with the miracles in nature.

    1. Thank you Eliza!
      If only our efforts could reach the people who most need to hear them.

      1. Poco a poco!

  7. Love the painting. So important to include people as a part of nature.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you think so too.

  8. I agree with everyone. Congratulations on your opening! And yes, we need to teach people how beautiful the outdoors is so they will love it and care for it. It is good to see people in your amazing painting, putting it in people’s minds that we belong out there in the beauty all around us.
    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thank you Mary! It is great fun to have a space where I can paint and where people can come see me and my work.
      Your kind words make feel so good!

  9. Congratulations, Melissa. This is lovely and an example of what I like about your paintings…a message of the importance of nature and our stewardship’s importance. I think I see a series starting along with “The Botanists”.
    It never hurts to repeat an important message. As you know, I am not keen on travel and enjoy finding the local beauty and sharing it. So I am with you all the way.
    It’s easy to forget to take pictures of our exhibit. I had three opportunities while showing in town hall and never remembered or even thought about it each time.

    1. Thank you Steve. Your words really mean a lot to me. I appreciate you telling me I’m not repeating myself too much! And you’re right, a series would be pretty interesting to do.
      You make me chuckle~we BOTH forget to photograph our exhibits!

  10. Congratulations, Melissa! I wish you great success! The Butterfly Monitors is a perfectly gorgeous piece. That sky! 🙂

  11. Thank you so much, Myriam! I was a bit afraid to put such a bold sky out there~ I’m so glad you like it 🙂

  12. Another Congratulations, Melissa!! This is a beautiful painting, and the people blend right in, it looks completely peaceful and right. 🙂
    What you write is so true… I often wish to be in Colorado–on the trails of Buffalo Mountain, along the Snake or the Blue Rivers, among the aspens. Your post reminds me that nature and beauty are all around me–in my own neighborhood. For years now I have carried a camera everywhere I go (it’s my iPhone now), and this is my favorite time of year for it. Everywhere I go things are blooming, and I can take a walk right outside my home and photograph crab apple blossoms, tulips, lilacs, and of course Lake Michigan… And even if I can’t capture it all in a still photo, I can just bask in the wonder of nature and life. It feels freeing and peaceful. Thank you for the reminder, and please keep sharing! 🙂

    1. Hi Catherine. Thank you!
      Your kind words about my painting make me happy. It is so good to savor what we have right here, isn’t it? On the other hand if we find ourselves yearning for a specific place I wonder if that means we’d be happier there? I mention this because I still feel a tug from the Pacific Northwest on my heartstrings. What do you think?

      1. Hmmmm, interesting… I want to say YES, unequivocally, I would be happier in Colorado. And, I also think that’s not a particularly productive thought, as my life is, currently and indefinitely, in Chicago. I visit home as often as I can, and my will stipulates that The remains of my body will live there in death. If I have my way I will get back there in life; just not right now… 😉

      2. And so says my heart, about my home and happy place. May we both get home while living, and may we find joy here while we must stay.

      3. Amen, amen!! 😊

  13. A happy opening to you, Melissa. It’s clear your glory days are far from gone.

    Monet sometimes included small human figures in a larger painting of nature:

    So did Van Gogh:

    See, you’re in good company.

    Scenic places call out to us, and I for one have enjoyed the occasional trip to someplace more exotic than where I live. My blog has included some pictures from Big Bend, the American Southwest, and even New Zealand, as you’ve seen, but there’s nothing like getting well acquainted with what’s around us at home. A promo for a slide show I presented last week made the point that “I have traveled a good deal in Austin.” The native species around us establish a sense of place and make where we are unique.

    1. Thank you, Steve. You’re right, there are new glory days ahead. You give me a fat head, comparing me to Monet and Van Gogh 🙂 Exalted company…wouldn’t it be fun to go out in the field with them to paint? Wow, there’s a happy thought. I like how you put that~well-traveled in Austin.

  14. Bravo to you, Melissa! Congratulations. Something to be very proud of, indeed. beautiful painting, I love the humans in it, it adds character. And I LOVE your message – wise words to be true.

  15. Hi Tahira, thank you for your comments!

  16. Beautiful painting. I agree. People need to love nature, and by seeing this image, they can place themselves there. Congratulations!

  17. You are so kind~thank you!

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