Thursday, July 8, 2021

Love, Attention, and Butterflies

             Our friend, the poet and essayist Fleda Brown, writes about love in her latest blog posting (


Sunday I was reading Maria Popova’s Brain PickingsShe’s writing about how who and what we love reveals who we are. First, she defines love as the attention we give things, and being “in love” as enhanced, directed attention. Which may blind us to what actually is there, which she describes as broader and airier. When we’re “in love,” the world glows, but only a narrow band.


Fleda goes on to discuss the attention paid in poetry as an act of love, but . . ..


            Kim loves the world we live in – not all of it, of course, but much. And lately she’s been in love with butterflies, giving them "enhanced, directed attention" on almost a daily basis as we make time to go out and chase them with cameras. She, however, refuses to be blind to what actually is there, as she pours over her photos to see if that was a Great Spangled Fritillary or a Regal Fritillary, a European Skipper or a Least Skipper. You might think that such knowledge is unimportant, much the way my ability to recite the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English is unimportant. Perhaps so, but that’s saying that love is unimportant. Don’t we experience a lack of attention from our partner as a lack of love?


            My love of butterflies trails Kim’s a bit. She learns their names and gently quizzes me from time to time, quizzes I fail. I can be dazzled by the beauty of a Pink-bordered Sulphur without knowing its name. And yes, that probably means I love it less than Kim does, but the world still glows.

            Identifying butterflies is very difficult, often involving counting and locating spots, smudges, and subtle patches of color on the wings. In fact, we are sure that after sending out this post we will hear corrections from some of our readers. That's part of the fun!

Silver-bordered Fritillary

It is often helpful to study the dorsal (open) and ventral (closed) views.

Silver-bordered Fritillary

Atlantis Fritillary - Can you see the difference between it and the Silver-bordered Fritillary above?

Atlantis Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary

Now that you have mastered the Fritillaries, let's move on to the Sulphurs:

Cabbage White

Cabbage White (yes, white)

Clouded Sulphur

Pink-edged Sulphur. Can you see how it is different from the Clouded, above?

West Virginia White

Southern Dogface - Doesn't look like a dogface, you say?

Southern Dogface

Orange Sulphur - not at all like the Pink-edged Sulphur above. What's important is that they can tell the difference, so they mate with the right species.

Pale Orange Sulphur

You should know that we have mis-identified some of these butterflies on purpose, just to see if you are paying attention.

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