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Gossamer and Metal
Tiny butterflies and immense joy on the wing.
AS YOU WALK the pine flatwoods of the American Southeast, searching for the showy and charismatic, for the Bald Eagle or the Gopher Tortoise, for the Bobcat or Sandhill Laurel, you might easily overlook the tiny and charismatic — and the flame flickering in the understory at your ankles.
Even if the flame catches your eye as it visits a flower, you might pass it off as some sort of moth because, after all, no butterfly can have a wingspan measuring the width of your thumbnail. Or can it? And when you drop to you knees for a closer look, your world is renewed and expanded in the presence of a butterfly called Little Metalmark (Calephelis virginiensis).
Metalmarks are true to their name: a family of butterflies (Riodinidae), mostly orange here in North America but more wildly colored in the tropics, adorned in strands or flecks of silver, gold, aqua, red, purple or metallic hues you’ve never seen in nature. It’s as if a butterfly wasn’t already beautiful enough that it must also be graced in jewels.
Not only that, unlike most butterflies, metalmarks tend to perch on leaves or flowers or twigs and stay put for a very long time, often for as long as you care to look. It is one of nature’s infinite guilty pleasures.
There are certainly metalmarks more colorful than Little Metalmark. But I myself am not presently among those metalmarks. I am among Little Metalmarks. And among Little Metalmarks I need little else than the mile of pleasure I receive from a half-inch butterfly.
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