On a twig next to my sidewalk, a few feet away from the spicebush I found a spicebush swallowtail drying its wings, the empty chrysalis below. It was just past noon, but the sky was growing dark. The storm broke an hour later, just as I was dozing off: booms of thunder, the rain loud on the roof. I had to get up because, though I don’t ordinarily suffer from loneliness, it’s hard to lie on a bed alone listening to the rain.
One cool thing about including a photo in a post like this: readers know I’m talking about a real butterfly and not just something I dreamt. This ain’t no Zhuangzi bullshit.
Then again, Zhuangzi’s parable isn’t really about the butterfly as metaphor, either. It’s about that sudden and destabilizing shift in perspective which I think any intent observer, poet or scientist, must sooner or later experience, too, that feeling of becoming lost in another being to such an extent that its reality begins to seem more real than your own. How do you know that you’re not just something a butterfly dreamt up? “This” — not the metamorphosis per se — “is called the transformation of things.” Granted, it might be possible to experience that sort of thing through romantic love, too, or so I’ve heard.
I went out after the downpour to look for the swallowtail, but it was nowhere to be found. A yellow tiger swallowtail with one wing strangely bent back was nectaring at the bergamot, setting off small showers at each new flower head.