A butterfly mind. To us, that means silly, inconstant, flighty, unable to concentrate on one thing for more than a second, always flying off to look at something more interesting – and then going back to the first thing, or maybe another even newer thing.
I seem to have spent most of this Wild June in waterproofs, out on the wild land round the house with Eddie. This was just such an evening, supper on the common in waterproofs trousers and tops, and the reed warbler cheerfully telling us that rain or no rain, he was still here.
But as we walked on, the painted ladies started to dance before us: butterflies in pale orange, black and white. And they were filled with purpose, and most of their purpose was each other: the task of making more painted ladies. They are an embodiment of constancy and resolve: all the things we think butterflies are not.
They fly up from North Africa in a series of generations: and the butterflies that reach maturity here will later make the long, hard journey back. These are not fragile little things at all: gorgeous, yes, but as tough and determined as Clint Eastwood in search of revenge.
On they danced, till I stopped counting. Some years are better for painted ladies than other, and there are hopes that this will be a boom year like 2009: like Julia Roberts arriving in plague proportions.
If humans ever learn to travel in deep space – when we need another planet or two to trash – we will presumably do so in the manner of painted ladies: as a breeding community that moves in a series of generations, completing the journey not as individuals but as a community.
I put a few thoughts along those lines into my new book, which has some of Eddie’s poems to raise the tone a little.
On The Marsh: A Year Surrounded by Wildness and Wet, by Simon Barnes with contributions from Edmund Barnes.