An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of July 24, 2016
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining
Chichén Itzá Ruin, Yucatán, Mexico

white clouds in blue sky

WHITE CLOUD, BLUE SKY, WHITE BUTTERFLY

Because I took the time to look into the sky, I saw something interesting.

A white butterfly, high above and driven by winds that near the ground didn't stir, was blown in a straight line across my field of vision. The white butterfly stood out against the blue sky, but against the white cloud made only a dingy speck. Against the white cloud the speck was dark because the cloud not only was white, but also glowed as clouds do when they're small enough for sunlight to diffuse through them, illuminating every water droplet inside them, each droplet broadcasting its rainbow hues to its neighbors. In contrast, with the butterfly against the blue sky, its wings showed only their shadowed underside, while during upbeats, with the wings folded above, for an instant I saw nothing of it at all.

All this was easy to figure out, but the white butterfly's passage still left an impression.

For, isn't life just like that? That which drifts along effortlessly glowing with its own internal light outshines whatever hustles just to keep aloft. That's what the Buddha tells us, and to a certain extent Jesus and some of the rest.

So, what is the essential difference between a cloud and a butterfly?

Maybe the Buddha would say that the radiant cloud seeks no identity, assumes whatever shape the air gives it, and admits into itself whatever comes its way. The butterfly, however, after having lived a long time as a caterpillar obsessively chewing leaves in order to grow, then resting briefly as a chrysalis, now has emerged as a winged adult working hard to find a mate and produce offspring. Remember the female Variegated Fritillary we saw recently mating while she was still on the chrysalis exuvia she'd just emerged from.

Butterflies are poems of hunger and desire.

But, if the butterfly's way of being is preached by the Nature Bible, isn't that teaching just the opposite of what the Buddha and Jesus seem to say?

Moreover, as an old graybeard sitting looking into the sky, my own life experience reminds me that when I was a butterfly driven by winds that didn't stir close to Earth, then I would have told you that any other way of being than being like a hungry, lusty butterfly would have killed me with its desperate dreamlessness, loneliness, and untouchability.

But, maybe Nature's teaching is more nuanced than suggesting one way over another. After all, the light we're talking about ricocheting into our eyes from cloud, butterfly and sky, science tells us, itself manifests two natures. On the one hand, light behaves like tiny sandgrains traveling through space but, on the other hand, also it behaves like electromagnetic radio waves.

Could not light's teaching be that white cloud, blue sky and white butterfly all are all perfect in their own ways, doing what is perfect for them as they are what they are? The light is the thing that teaches, not the cloud, sky and butterfly, and light has two natures.

What a thing this world is, with its blue skies, white clouds, white butterflies, and whole theaters of illusions to touch, smell, hear, taste, see and think about.