Mourning cloak


Snow Butterfly, from the Undiscovery Channel on Vimeo.

What mourner wears maroon edged in gold? These dark wings are solar collectors, newly resurrected from hibernation or a long journey to the south. They are also billboards of a sort, advertising for sex.

mourning cloak on snow 2

But until the females emerge, there’s bare dirt and dung to eat, and snow to suckle. Find a path in the woods and make that your destination: land and circle, rise and double back. A month or more before the new leaves, your colors are made to match the fallen, the moldering. When the wind riffles the ridgetop leaves, you too can flutter. This is your glory time.

mourning cloak on snow 3

Later on, after the heat of mating is past, when the weather turns oppressively hot, you can let the strings of your life go slack a second time, creature of the in-between, of spring and autumn.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

5 Comments


  1. I wonder if the snow butterfly gets its name from its taste for snow or for the white edges of its wings.

    Bethany and I noticed — for the first time, and independently of each other — last week that many of the leaves in our area start brown, the color of the leaves that left and fell last fall. We thought of the bald heads and wrinkles of babies.

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  2. “Snow butterfly” is my own, made-up term. The proper name is mourning cloak.

    I guess the brown (or red, or yellow) is an outer casing over the bud, isn’t it? Good point though.

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  3. You know, I never looked that closely. (A terrible admission, but then I’m a suburbanite.)

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  4. Loved this, Dave. What a good start to my day! (Of course, it’s snowing here in Canada…)

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