About a week ago, Garrison Keillor shared this poem on his Writers Almanac podcast.
What a slow way to eat, the butterflyBarbara Quick, 2021
is given by Nature, sipping nectar
one tiny blue flower at a time. Though
a Monarch in name, she’s made to scavenge
like the poorest of the poor, a morsel
here, a morsel there. A flutter of ink-
splattered orange wings. We don’t want to see
the struggle that undergirds the grace: the
ballerina’s sweat, or her ruined feet
hidden by tights and toe-shoes. She knows her
career will be as brief as it was hard
to achieve. Pollinated, the tiny
blue flowers are sated. The butterfly
flits away, hoping to live one more day.
This poem finally gave me a place to share a series of photos that I have been taking as Spring and Summer started to bloom all around us. On my phone, there’s a mode that can artificially make “studio light” where only the main subject is illuminated and the rest is black. I have been taking photos of flowers since they began to bloom using that mode. Some were in our yard, some in other places, but all of them beautiful as flowers always are. But I wasn’t sure how to share them until I read this poem.
What I loved about this poem was how it got at what is really happening beneath the surface and that’s what I experienced with these photos. They eliminated everything else except the blooms that would not happen without the work of pollinators doing their largely unseen work that provides for this incredible beauty. It is much easier to just focus on the final results rather than everything that happens to get to that point – whether it is a flower pollenated by bees and butterflies, a ballet performed by a ballerina who had practiced for years, a sermon shared by a pastor following hours of work each week and years of training, or so many other things.
So imagine that the areas between the blooms represent everything that went into the final beauty that is seen here and give thanks for all the hard work behind the scenes of so many in our lives. And for me, I also give thanks for the work of God who is “able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” and whose work is far bigger than I can ever know.