I had a slightly similar experience a couple of years ago watching and photographing several mourning cloak butterflies up on Fort Mountain (Gahuti)here in the mountains of North Georgia. It’s a hard thing to describe, but I should try sometime. The photographs were accidentally deleted, unfortunately; I’d just started taking pictures.
I find Zhuangzhi more interesting than Lao-tzu. Have you a book called The World of Thought in Ancient China, Dave? I can’t lay my hands on it but I want to revisit it. I looked at Wing-tsit Chan’s translation of the butterfly story and am also curious if you know it. I may try to write something about the mourning cloak experiencel; it was quite affecting for me at the time.