Meandering Along the River’s Edge
~by Virginia Rhys-Anson
Creation through Childlike Wonder
“Grandma, why are those two butterflies stuck together?”
“They’re making baby butterflies.”
How else can you answer such a question for a five-year-old? How do you explain butterfly sex to a child too young to know the meaning of the word, especially when you don’t know the intimate details of butterfly sex yourself? Well, you wing it. As I did.
I’m not sure how she thought these two red-spotted purples could make baby butterflies by being hooked together, but it sure would have been an adventure to take a peek into her little brain. Maybe they have, she congers, some type of baby making machine inside. Or maybe the babies walk from one butterfly to the other. Thankfully, she was perfectly satisfied with my answer—for now.
This was the first time I had ever seen two butterflies making babies. It was such a thrill. A thought occurred that I may never see this again and that I should rush inside the house and grab my camera. But then I would have missed this precious moment of discovery with my granddaughter. I chose to relish the moment, content to keep the picture archived in my mind.
Children see a newness in everything. They are astute observers. The tiniest of ants or seeds that I might walk right by, a child will notice. Little minds just want to sponge up every minute detail. Their intense wonderment guides their learning.
A reversion to childhood curiosity proved irrepressible. To recapture a child’s awe and marvel at nature—what a trip! Nature is forever ancient, yet forever new. She reveals her primal secrets afresh to her inquisitive seekers.
“Why are those birds eating off the ground instead of the bird feeder?” Yes, indeed. Why do some birds eat off of the ground while others dine at the feeder and still others dive toward the ground or waterways to sup? Might the ground feeders be the fools of the avian world, being especially vulnerable to the attack of a predator? The Eurasian Collared Dove seems ground inclined. With gray-toned feathers so smooth and sleek, it cocks its head, then flaps to the earth to feast. Its black collar only partially circums its neck, while tiny ebony globes perch symmetrically below its crown, its tail bearing stripes of black and gray. Gently its movements jerk as it pecks for seeds fallen from the feeder. Such a sophisticated bird. Were it not that it prefers to feed on the ground, the dove would waltz with the more refined class.
“Why are the bees going from one flower to another?” Bees are so very engaging as they buzz from bloom to bloom. They live in quite organized colonies making the most delicious sweetness. Though their flight seems somewhat erratic, its deliberate pattern is purposed to collect pollen that transmutes into honey to support the queen and the colony. Each flight of each bee is a determined venture to find its treasured pollen. But, why, how? The adventure is in the answering.
“Why can’t I see a hummingbird’s wings when it’s flying?” Hummingbirds do appear as almost wingless bodies in flight toward nectared flowers, their trek spastically zippy. One second here, the next there, yet the next out of sight. Such a treat to watch as they eat on the run, seldom alighting to dine. Still, alight they occasionally do on a tiny branch, resting hypersonically flapping wings. Still, how do they flap hypersonically?
“Why are the leaves falling off the trees?” A patchwork of reds, yellows, and oranges quilts the ground ‘neath autumn’s trees. Though it bodes a trio plus months of bare limbs, fall’s colorful array escorts a respite from summer’s swelter. Golden leaves streaked with the green of their origin. Maple’s foliage a foreshadowing of Christmastide’s red. Leaves mottled with grays, chipped edges disfiguring their borders. The death of leaves signals the hibernation of nature’s arboreal flora. Their color hinting of a spring to follow nature’s rest. Yet why descend they earthward?
Why is this side of the tree green and the other side isn’t?” Now this one I can answer. The northern side of the trunk, the greenish side, receives less sunlight than the south. So vegetation grows readily. Pastel hued green patched atop tree’s gray bark, texture smoothed by wind’s north breath, garbs trunk’s creviced façade. What an artistic flare gifts Ma Nature.
“Why are those bugs (cicadas) really loud?” Deafening would be volumes more accurate. Pun intended. Despite cicadas’ earsplitting din, it is a somewhat pleasant cacophony. The awakening of the cicadas. Seemingly millions birth from a decade plus repose, invading the serenity that enveloped the air prior. Their song is surprisingly exhilarating, though irritation is expected. My only beef with these quite rare visitors is the evacuation of the dear chickadees from this tumult—and from my yard. Why did the chickadees exit? And why did they remain exiled for over two years after the cicada choir quieted?
“Why don’t worms have any feet?” The better to burrow with, My Dear. Drab seems their brownish-gray color, easily overlooked amid the soil that is their home. Still, not to a child. Without legs for locomotion, their crawl is but a mystery. Sluggish spaghetti bodies migrate across and into dirt. Though dawdling seems their nature, a gentle touch to worm elicits an instant curl into a warped spiral. Curious that one will grow a new tail when severed into two parts. Fascinating is the humble worm.
“Why do zebras have stripes and horses don’t?” Interesting how the mind of a child migrates seamlessly from topic to totally unrelated topic. Resembling, and likely related to, the horse, Zebra is such a fun animal. Quite unique and distinctive. Unique, also, within its species as one zebra is distinguished from others by its stripe pattern. So, does a zebra display black stripes on a white body, or the inverse? Peculiar also that the zebra’s call seems more akin to that of a donkey than that of a horse. A study of its evolution would prove most engaging.
“Why do prairie dogs live underground?” So cute to see their little heads cautiously followed by full bodies popping from the ground beneath. Must be rather cozy enwombed within the earth, fairly protected from nature’s tantrums. A myriad of species creates homes underground, some for the entire year, some for a seasonal fragment. With some prairie dog towns consisting of hundreds of residents inhabiting a network of tunnels, it’s amazing that the earth above does not collapse. Animal inborn instinct so captivates.
“Why does the river make a noise?” Oh such a refreshing “noise.” Its undulations and migrations around and over rocks and boulders deeply placates. Water, though ever fluid and pliable, croons and roars as its nature wills. Though the physics of this phenomenon may be easily explained, the adult soul is truly content to simply enjoy river’s melody. However, the child in that soul wants to know why. Enjoyment, questioning—adult and child conjoined for harmonious immersion in a tranquil scene.
“Why are there a zillion stars in the sky?” At least a zillion. And near an infinite number, perhaps, if the theory of multiple universes proves accurate. A nocturnal, cloudless sky. Teeny twinkling and static specks of light sequin sky’s fabric. Sky’s canopy elicits gazes in awe of its unfathomable massiveness. What a mind boggle. What a serenity.
Curiosity. Questions. Wonderment. Learning.
“Grandma, why are those two butterflies stuck together?”
Yes, indeed, why?
The inexhaustible multitude of questions a child’s mind congers. To become, again, as a child. To see the world, to see nature, through intrigue and wonderment.
Yes, indeed. Why?
Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
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