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A Butterfly Moment

Butterfly MomentMourning Cloak on Felled Birch

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

~Rabindranath Tagore

I looked through my records, and it doesn’t appear that I have ever posted this painting so I thought I would this morning. Some years ago we had a remarkably warm December and I went out to walk the North Unit at Illinois Beach State Park~my favorite trail here. Birches don’t live long here, because it is too warm for them, and this one had fallen. A large patch of bright orange slime mold was making its way along the trunk, and to my delight, a Mourning Cloak had come out to play on this warm winter day.

I just recently came across the above quote, and loved it. It doesn’t really apply to Mourning Cloaks, though, because they in fact do count months, overwintering in crevices they find in bark. Unlike other species of butterflies, Mourning Cloaks sip sap rather than nectar, and will be out and about on warm winter days.

40 thoughts on “A Butterfly Moment

  1. This is lovely, I like the birch bark and grasses, too. The tall seed stalk (zizia, maybe?) is like a nice little fireworks marker for the butterfly.

    1. Thank you Robert! I really like the seed stalk too~ it was actually yellow pimpernel, (Taenidia integerrima) something I see only occasionally in the field.

      1. I remember the Yellow Pimpernel! He was like his cousin, Scarlet, but not as brave.

      2. HAHAH! yes, the yellow streak down his back was a dead giveaway.
        My friend and I did find scarlet pimpernel here as well. It is an adorable little thing categorized as a weed but we didn’t care.

  2. This captures my experience of Mourning Cloaks – though I’ve not seen one on a warm December, I’ve seen many in early spring. Fine composition, the butterfly integrated into the scene. That stalk looks like Queen Anne’s lace to me…

    1. Thank you Tom. The stalk does look like Queen Anne’s lace at first glance, but in fact this was yellow pimpernel.

  3. I’ve never seen a Morning Cloak. The painting and the quote are lovely! What a treat to see a Butterfly in December!

    1. Oh it was! Thanks Deborah.

  4. I didn’t realize there were butterflies (or at least this one) that will feed on sap. Of course that made me think of the yellow-bellied sapsucker, and I found that the bird can be found in our area, as can the mourning cloak. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this butterfly; at least, I haven’t identified it properly. I suspect my untrained eye could mistake it for a swallowtail, at least at a distance.

    I was surprised to learn of the yellow pimpernel. It’s so different from our (blue and orange) scarlet pimpernel. The BONAP map shows it “present and native” in Texas, but the USDA map shows it only in three counties at the eastern fringe of the state. The scarlet pimpernel have been blooming since February: hardy little things, for sure.

    1. Yes, those little scarlet pimpernel are adorable. The yellow is quite rare in our area, only found in very high quality habitat. In fact I’ve only seen it in 2 places, despite what the range maps suggest.
      I loved being a butterfly monitor because it was like opening a treasure chest. Who knew there were so many species?!

  5. I think of birch bark as black and white, so the colors in this one endear it to me.

    The butterfly is another species that we share. I’ve just found out that in addition to large parts of North America, it inhabits Eurasia. Wikipedia says that since 2001 it’s been the state insect of Montana.

    Pimpernel is another one of those misleading names. The scarlet pimpernel, in the Primulaceae, is of Eurasian origin but has invaded most of the United States. I’m glad to confirm that the yellow pimpernel, in the Apiaceae, is native in your area.

    1. Thank you Steve.
      I had no idea the Mourning Cloak has such a wide range.

  6. This is a beautiful painting Melissa. What medium did you use? I love the story of the Mourning Cloak. I enlarged to get a better look. I don’t believe we have them here. Great post.

    1. Thank you so much, Robyn! I used Acrylic on canvas for this painting. Soon I’ll be switching entirely to oils ~gulp!

      1. I’ll watch with interest.

      2. Ha! so will I….

      3. When you paint, what medium do you like to use?

      4. Melissa, I began with acrylics but have recently be trying my hand at watercolour. It’s such a totally different medium. Both have their advantages and their limits.

  7. I find watercolor very challenging but it can yield gorgeous results. (not by me!) I’ve enjoyed my acrylics for many many years but when I found a source for ecologically sustainable oil paint, I felt I really needed to explore that. This afternoon I got them back out and was messing around with them. I quite like them and always end up with colorful hands! πŸ˜€

  8. A wonderful painting Melissa that not only freezes that moment in time, but reminds the viewer to look closer at the nature that is all around us.
    Best Wishes
    Kevin πŸ™‚

  9. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kevin. When I read Georgia O’Keefe’s words on painting her large flowers, to get people to slow down and notice them, I thought that was exactly what I wanted to do with my work. Best wishes to you. πŸ™‚

  10. This is stunning work, Melissa. The colors and details are captivating and I love where you’ve placed the butterfly. A bit of a treasure hunt as my eyes take in your painting.

    1. Oh nice, Jane! Thank you.

  11. I’m guessing you must have posted this about the time I got so sick. Never turned the computer on for 3 solid weeks. Thankfully, I’m on the mend now and trying to get caught up with blogs. This painting is superb. I would have hated to miss it. I think I’ve learned quite a bit about plants and butterflies from my visits here. I believe the mourning cloak was one. Thank you!

    1. Oh man, Gunta, that is terrible! I’m so glad you are feeling better.
      Thank you so much~you couldn’t have paid me a nicer compliment!

    2. My son is in Portland right now with some friends. They went straight to a botanic garden! That’s my boy! πŸ™‚ Fingers crossed he loves it out there… how could he not??

  12. I can’t imagine someone not liking Portland, but then that’s ME! I love this state more than any other place I’ve ever lived. If Portland or a city doesn’t do it for you, there’s so much diversity. It’s a big state with so much to offer.

  13. That’s true and I’ve only scratched the surface of it. We talk about getting a rig similar to yours~maybe we’ll do that one day and be able to explore the state properly.

  14. Beautiful – Wonderfully rich composition Melissa! What a great selection of paintings you’ve created. I notice you’ve been blogging since 2010 – that’s commitment!

    1. Thank you so much, Michael. Yes, there have been times when I’ve thought about walking away from my blog but then I miss it and come back. πŸ™‚ Thank you for following me! I’m looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful blog as well.

      1. Yes, I think that will happen to me. It’s almost 2 years since I started and have “met” some sweet folks through it. I feel that it also helps me to be creative and discipline my image making. Besides, everywhere I go I’m always aware of light, colour and composition and having a handy cell phone make it too easy to capture interesting stuff.

      2. Isn’t it funny how our cell phones have become extensions of our hands and minds? I truly love this particular invention. Pardon me now while I go sift through a few hundred images…..

      3. Haha – Maybe a little bit too simple to capture stuff – no discipline required. I remember shooting a 36 exposure roll of Kodachrome – each shot cost 50 cents and I had to wait a week to see the results!

      4. Yes! You really felt that each click had to count back then. Amazing.

    2. Thank you very much. I’m in the process of creating a new website here at WP….actually I haven’t been working on is as I should be. I think I’m intimidated. But hopefully I’ll have it up and running soon and then you’ll have more to see πŸ™‚

      1. It’s ok Melissa – I haven’t posted for more than a month – some time to chill and re-assess if I want to continue this silliness.

      2. Haha, yeah…

  15. Interesting word choice… I didn’t know there was such a thing as a warm winter day.

    1. Oh yes. Even before climate change we would have warm days in December and January. Do you have much access to nature where you live?

      1. I have access to pockets of nature. It depends on where I travel to in my area. I love getting lost in parks and gardens. Urban farms are nice too.

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