Saturday, 8 August 2009

Butterflies



August isn't the most colorful month in the gardening calendar.

Almost everything looks a bit frayed, overgrown, or yellowed at the edges. (You can just glimpse the dried brown heads of the once brilliantly purple allium. Their former glory exists only in my blog sidebar now.)

For some reason, though, there are great clouds of butterflies everywhere.




On Thursday, I had to take my youngest daughter to the Jane Austen House with me. For several patient hours, she sat on a wooden bench and knitted in the garden. There was one magical moment in which a swirl of white butterflies looked like a moveable crown upon her head. Sadly, it was captured only in my memory.

Why are butterflies such an irresistible subject for the photographer? Is it because they are the very essence of what is ephemeral?


My youngest daughter, still impervious to the charms of cell phones and the like, spent hours fashioning a sari from her big sister's old duvet cover. She still likes to play dress-up -- not for any alluring reasons, but just for fun. I wonder if this will be her last childish summer?

A few weeks ago, a dear blog-friend sent me a card with the following quotation from Edith Wharton: If only we could stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.

Happiness is so hard to pin down, but I do try to recognize it when I see it.

54 comments:

Elizabeth said...

What an elegant butterfly in your garden.
I'm so glad C. has discovered knitting.
It is far better than the dreaded crochet (I'm sure many people will disagree.)

Yes, August is when the garden takes a breather from the exertions of early summer before becoming wonderful again in September - mellow, fruitful, melancholy and all that.....

You have to go to the beach for a fortnight
sans bikes........

Celeste Maia said...

I am writing to you from the north of Portugal, sitting by a stream, under a spreading tree. The bird's voice I am hearing is the voice of summer itself.
And this entry is another ode of summer. And your charming butterfly daughter, preserved by you in this photograph of timeless youth, showing the world her magic.

Tessa said...

Oh, I do think gorgeous daughter in her glorious colours and lovely butterfly in hers are equally beautiful. We, too, have clouds of butterflies all over the garden. And the dragonflies in their jewelled glory sometimes leave the pond and come and visit me in my studio. I wonder if it is my big jar of water, with its swirls of dried colour on the sides which attracts them?

flowrgirl1 said...

I love sari that she made. Talented!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Your youngest daughter looks like a butterfly herself! Such a beauty. And she knits!! Maybe a budding fashion designer?

marja-leena said...

Gorgeous butterfly, your daughter, and so talented too!

blackbird said...

I'm not sure how many flowers you need if you have your lovely daughter and the butterflies in the garden. What a great job she did fashioning her gown from her sister's bedding. May she never outgrow playing dress-up.

I love the passing of the months as each group of flowers take their turn gracing the garden. Especially now that I'm taking photos, I am noticing just how brief a time that some flowers have in their glory. Somehow our memory of them is larger than the actuality of them. All the reason to savor the seasons as they pass.

The Bug said...

Love the sari! I like bright colors like that.

Just today I was thinking about how the petunias are past their prime & how it won't be much longer that we'll be battening down the hatches for winter (see how I just skipped fall there?). Thanks for helping me to see the beauty of this season!

ArtSparker said...

Your daughter is stunning.

B said...

Wow, she's very talented and looks amazing! I've noticed lots of butterflies around today!

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh ... I loved this post, and the pictures. You are so right about butterflies ... the minute I see one in the garden, I'm quickly trying to grab my camera!

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

What a precious post, filled with beautiful photos and thoughts. Thank you.

Maggie May said...

such gorgeous pictures, gorgeous daughter

Kate said...

Lovely post, Bee! Your daughter looks almost Grecian in her pose.
Thanks for the note reference; Wharton's words have been written on my heart for many years now.
Happiness and beauty and kindness ... kittens and butterflies and puppies ... a simmering stew on the stove and crisp fall days ... children's laughter and a lover's warm embrace. Oh, so many blessings are here for us!

Kate said...

Forgot to add: ephemeral is one of my top-10 favorite words, ranking right up there with "effervescent" and "tumultuous."

linda said...

your lovely daughter is the essence of ephemeral was my thought upon looking at her as she strolled dreaming in the garden...

enjoy everyday with her as it "seems" very fleeting...much like the magic of butterflies...but then there is another stage and another, all of them special and glorious in their own ways!
X

herhimnbryn said...

She is a very beautiful butterfly.

Just Jules said...

oh this is beautiful!

Emm said...

I'm reading Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo at the moment and she says something similar at the moment about trying so hard to be something else and someone else that we forget to be happy.

Lovely pre-autumn post!

julochka said...

the duvet cover sari is fantastic. and it would appear that there's lots of color in your life as well. ;-) and we have that same duvet cover, tho' i haven't let anyone repurpose it at our house.

i feel a little wistful reading your thoughts that it may be her last childish summer. i've already been thinking that with sabin and she's only 8, but she's grown and changed so much this summer, i feel her childhood as so fleeting.

love the sentiments about butterflies as well, they are so very ephemeral...what is it about us that makes us want to capture that?

Bee said...

Elizabeth - C has been so craftsy lately! She is asking for a sewing machine for Xmas.

I think you are right about the beach . . . we need something utterly summery and relaxing.

Celeste Maia - I did love the transformation that happened when she pinned up her hair and put on her home-made sari. She transformed from a scruffy little girl into something so classical and elegant! What kind of bird are you hearing, I wonder?

Tessa - I will have to put out a large jug of water and test your theory. We don't have any dragonflies, sadly. No water close-by . . .

flowrgirl1 - I agree! And she made matching outfits for her favorite doll and monkey, too.

Pamela - Either that, or budding English eccentric!

Thanks, Marja-leena. xx

Blackbird - You are so right about the changes, and how photographing them somehow allow you to notice them more . . . and also remember them! Next year, I'm going to try to keep a gardening journal.

The Bug - That bright fabric? My daughter painted her bedroom orange to paint it!!

ArtSparker - She does look like a little goddess in these pictures, doesn't she? Usually she is more of a nymph or elf.

B - I'd love an explanation as to why there are suddenly so many butterflies!

Kelly H-Y - Oh, so do I! And most of my pictures are awful . . . and don't even come close to capturing their beauty.

Thanks, Boomer. xx

Maggie May - I hope she never grows out of her wonderful quirkiness.

Kate - I did think that was a wise and wonderful saying. And I love the word ephemeral, too . . . (if only we could accept that things don't last; and yet do come back again in some form).

Linda - That is exactly what I was trying to express!

Herhimnbryn - And two hours later, she was playing in a muddy creek with her friends . . .

Thanks, Just Jules. xx

Julochka - You have that duvet? (I did feel a bit guilty about letting her cut it up.) R just a got a new Orla Kiely one - also very colorful. Did I tell you that you are going to be sleeping in an orange room?

Bee said...

Emm - I didn't mean to miss you out! I've never read Coehlo; that book sounds perfect for my mood right now.

Eternally Distracted said...

Absolutely great pictures

The Clever Pup said...

Hi Bee,

Your darling daughter does not seem to be childish in the least. As a matter of fact, she seems to know what she's doing. Keep up the knitting and the sewing.

Margaret Gosden said...

I was a knitter (Fairisle pullovers) at that age and making my own dresses. My mother liked to crochet. Now my daughter, in her 40s, is very much into crochet, though she never met my mother. And my granddaughter does not like to do either, though she is an artist in many other ways. We are not yet at the age for reading Jane Austen! Thanks for referring to the butterfly post - what a great collection.

Dumdad said...

Butterflies are amazing. The Red Admiral is my favourite.

rxBambi said...

your daughter is beautiful! and so talented! sounds like a wonderful day you had together.
xoxo

Lucy said...

How lovely, what a wonderful coincidence. I can't believe she did that just with a duvet cover, she looks so lovely!

Someone said once that the writers of the constitution had a lot to answer for when they enshrined the right to the pursuit of happiness. On the other hand, we can pursue butterflies, it doesn't mean we have the right to catch and hold them, does it?

I was just putting together a thing about how I didn't really like August but... you've given me an incentive to go on with it.

Lisa said...

What a lovely photo of your daughter. I'm watching childhood speed up? wind down? for all mine and it's both heartbreaking and exciting.

The image of the butterflies in your memory must be a thing to treasure. Happiness, like those butterflies can seem just out of our grasp, but maybe it's best to not grasp it and just know that it is there, no matter how fleeting.

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Shaista said...

Thankyou so much for this lovely post - and the links both to Lucy's butterflies and the Jane Austen House. Her house at Chawton looks much like any house in Cambridge, with its neat gardens and careful rooms. Only the objects within give some idea of a different age - have you been to Kettle's Yard in Cambridge? It is wonderful!

Polly said...

Apparently we're having a deluge of butterflies this summer. Butterflies and ladybirds. So far I've seen a few ladybirds on my windows, I'm still waiting for the butterflies.

Lovely dress!

A Modern Mother said...

I think your daughter has a future in fashion design...

Anne said...

What an enterprising one your youngest daughter is! Sewing and knitting... I wasn't nearly that handy when I was her age. (Nor am I now--I can knit, but I'm still learning to sew.)

Great pictures. She looks lovely!

Sarah Laurence said...

Your daughter is the most beautiful butterfly of all - with the fairy charm to turn a duvet into a gown. HAD to go to Jane Austen’s house – are you applying for that job? I LOVE that Edith Wharton quotation. Take it to heart. We can’t all have our castles. Fun to hear more about your Spain holiday below. I also enjoyed the Mae West quotation. Do you have a book of quotations or remember these perfect sayings?

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

Hello Bee -
How I envy your trip to glorious Spain. Sounds as if you've been having a good summer.
I flipped over that first photo of your daughter - so gorgeous in every way: the hand on the tousled hair, the way she draped the fabric over one shoulder, the angle of the stripes. Just beautiful. And I was surprised when she faced the camera that she is so young. I thought it was going to be you! I loved dressing up too. Tell her I said, "Excellent styling!"
Catherine

Michelle said...

Oh I so love flutterbys.

Nancy said...

Butterfllies swirling around that adorable young girl sounds like a scene in a movie. She is beautiful.

I can feel summer coming to a close as well. Soon the leaves will start to turn here in the mountains.

Reya Mellicker said...

This is a beautiful post, Bee. August in DC is also a time of palpable decline. The trees start to droop, the gardens fade and the air smells crusty. We, too, have had lots of monarch butterflies. I have about a dozen pics of the butterfly just after it had opened its wings.

Your daughter is beautiful and the pictures of her are exquisite. I know lots of women who love to dress up no matter what their age. I hope she doesn't lose it. She does it so well.

Isabel said...

Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog. Your place is lovely. How I wish I was there at the Jane Austen Garden. Your daughter is beautiful. May she always keep that innocence about her. My mother taught my daughter(now 13) how to knit a couple of years ago, and I still remember how I loved watching her fully enthralled with her project.

Dave King said...

Sorry I've not been around for a bit, I've been missing some superb posts, obviously. My fault, entirely.

August is usually the most colourful month in the garden, and so it is this year, I guess, but less so than usual. Everything being a bit below par and going off a little earlier than usual.

Nimble said...

I think part of the experience of a flower garden is the anticipation that's wound up in it. It starts in the winter or years before in the planning and dreaming. And then when spring has come, you wait for each plant to grow, seeing what's come in strongly. Then they're done and blown and you start thinking of next year.

I highly approve of both dress up and playing in the mud. I wish I had the patience for knitting, do you do it? Good for youngest.

Here in Kansas we are on the monarch butterfly migration route. Maybe your butterflies are migrating south?

Emm said...

@ Bee: I finished the book! It was excellent and uplifting and I would certainly recommend it. I'm afraid I spelt the author's name wrong - it is Coelho.

Bee said...

Dear Everyone - Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I will be sure to pass on all sewing and styling comments to my youngest daughter! My little butterfly made a long migration this morning; I put her and her older sister on a plane to Texas. Flying solo for the first time!

mindseye said...

What a wonderful blog, found via my friend, the author, Amanda Craig's blog. (I highly recommend her Hearts and Minds which I have just finished). After a day in oppressive, inner city heat, doing boy things for my three sons, it was such a refreshing delight to find your feminine, life-loving, beautiful and insightful site. The photographs transported me from London Fields to your tranquil borders. How generous of you to share it with us! I know what you mean about missing the perfect photograph through timing, or not having a camera to hand; one of my best summers ever, 25 years ago in Florence, I forgot to take my camera, of all things. And in such an exquisite city - I was an impoverished student, learning Italian and studying history of art at the British Institute and could not afford to buy another camera. I knew I had to imprint everything on my memory. This I consciously did, staring intently, then blinking like the shutter eye, and the images are still fresh, vivid and untarnished in my mind. After that I knew that sometimes it is better to enjoy the moment, immerse and saturate yourself in it, rather than trying to capture it, pin it down, glaze it forever, like a butterfly. Don't be annoyed you missed the photo opportunity; you did capture the image of the moment, and more importantly, its essence, and passed it on to us. Thank you!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Seriously, that is a duvet cover? I think your lovely girl has a future in fashion design, Bee. I'm not kidding.

And why is it, when I lived in England, I only saw little yellow and white butterflies and not the colourful ones you've shown us here?

Celeste Maia said...

Thank you for your wonderful comment. It made my day.

steven said...

hi bee, such a beautiful posting and a burning question tucked away in it "i wonder if this will be her last childish summer?" my girl is twelve almost thirteen and there's very much that feel of little girl still about her that i treasure. i know that it will go as it should, but i hope that my example carries her through life and that is to be childlike and not childish.
have a lovely day. steven

Bee said...

Mindseye - Thank you for this lovely comment. I have, indeed, read Hearts and Minds. (I wrote a review of it a couple of months ago. You should be able to find it under Amanda Craig on my sidebar.) Thanks so much for visiting me!

JAPRA - Who knows why, but it's been a good year for butterflies. (Guess who's getting a sewing machine for Christmas? Poor thing: she hemmed the entire thing by hand.

Celeste - Isn't it funny how comments can do that for a person? Thanks for saying so.

Fantastic Forrest said...

I have that Wharton quote on my fridge. Love the shots of youngest daughter. I've missed reading your wonderful posts. They are my compensation for now having my wings clipped; travels are over for a bit, and I can settle down with tea and read your brilliant writing and enjoy your great shots.

We saw a zillion butterflies in Denver, when we went to the water park and walked past a field of flowers. Love them!

Bee said...

FF - I'm SO GLAD that you are back. Please do not ever be offline again (says the person who is going to the Lake District in the morning).

Merisi said...

Never seen a more elegant former duvet cover! That girl has oomph and a big talent.

August mellows summer's glory,
heralding the sweet surrender of summer's end.

Bee said...

Merisi - how beautifully worded!

Tabitha@ichoosebliss.net said...

Your daughter is very beautiful and most talented.