Blog: EarthSpirit
by Mayah

Musings on a Monarch Butterfly

Finding a dead butterfly leads to musings about nature and animals

Date:   3/21/2021 1:41:28 AM   ( 23 mon ) ... viewed 650 times
photo by mayah(c)3/20/2021

I found this butterfly, dead, entangled in a dusty spider web in my backyard today. It's perfectly preserved except for the antennae. My first thought was to keep it and use it somehow in my art; I was thinking of coating it with clear acrylic to keep it from decaying....then in a few moments came a nauseous twist in my stomach: "what am I thinking?!?" I was aghast at myself. I used to feel this pit in my stomach whenever I looked at the two dead starfish hanging on my parent's bathroom wall, preserved for decoration. After my folks died, I took the starfish off of the wall and buried them in the backyard.

When I was a kid, I loved collecting sea shells. I used to save up my allowance and buy seashells from tourist shops when my family went on vacation. At some time during my childhood I found out that these exotic seashells from far-off lands were hauled up from the sea floor in nets, the live mollusks still inside, then boiled to remove the animals. The shells were sold to tourists and collectors around the world. I was so appalled I never bought another sea shell. The shells I now use in my Eco Art are ones I've found, long empty and washed up on the beaches of Southern California where I live. I also collect bird feathers, empty snail shells, rocks, seed pods and other nature items I find on my walks. So what's so different about a dead monarch butterfly? I don't know. Maybe because the body was still intact, and I looked at it and imagined it flying through the sky.

I decided to bury the butterfly, and laid it to rest in the soil near the birds, squirrels, possums, and rats that I've buried periodically in my suburban backyard. As I put the earth over it, I thanked the butterfly for giving the world its beauty while it lived, and thanked it for providing food for the soil organisms, as it eventually decays back into Mother Gaia. Musing, I asked myself the question: why do Westerners make hierarchies out of animals? Humans on top, mammals next, then birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks and other sea creatures, worms and insects, and lastly microorganisms. We value nature's creatures by how "intelligent" they are, by human standards. Who's to say that a butterfly isn't as important in the scheme of things as a mammal? Who's to say that a mammal isn't as important as a human?

I'm not a vegan nor a vegetarian. My digestive system is unable to handle soy, beans, lentils, nuts, peanuts, cheese or other milk products, eggs, nor grains except for rice. My diet is very limited--I eat animals for survival. I try and eat "grass fed", "organic", and "free range" animals, hoping that the animals are treated better and are healthier than most animals raised for food.

I do object to hunting animals only for sport, but don't have a problem if the animals are used for food. I have respect for indigenous people who hunt traditionally, because I know the animals are thanked for giving of their lives so the hunter and hunter's family may live. I try and remember to say a prayer before eating meat: "thank you, chicken, for giving of your life so that I may live"; I'm not very consistent at every meal about doing this. Maybe the butterfly was meant to remind me of this.

I know an elder woman who was given a bear skin as a gift from an indigenous person; she knows the bear was killed with respect and in a traditional way. I like to think that there is a difference between this and trophy hunting. While I may disdain putting animal heads on the wall, I do wear leather shoes and have leather belts. My favorite footwear is made out of sheep skin. So what is the difference? I don't know.

Just musings on a dead butterfly.

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Comments (20 of 115):
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