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.

28 thoughts on “A Butterfly Moment

  1. tomwhelan says:

    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…

  2. shoreacres says:

    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.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      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?!

  3. Steve Schwartzman says:

    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.

  4. Robyn Haynes says:

    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 donโ€™t believe we have them here. Great post.

  5. melissabluefineart says:

    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! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. kevinashton says:

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. melissabluefineart says:

    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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Jane Lurie says:

    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.

  9. Gunta says:

    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!

  10. Gunta says:

    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.

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