Guest Post by Kathryn Magendie

Every year the butterflies come. The very first time I saw them, I thought something was wrong, that somehow the butterflies were disoriented and ended up at the bottom of our gravel driveway by accident. But then, the next year they were back, and the next, and next. From what I can tell, they are Pipevine Swallowtails, a butterfly that frequents the mountains. Whatever kind they are is not as important to me as the butterfly’s behavior and beauty and mystery.

Every late spring or early summer they come. They fly in, land, and then lie there, fluttering their wings. When I walk our dogs, they flit away, hovering near, and wait until we leave before they land once again in their designated spots. Some die right away, lying where they landed, wings spread. Whenever I have to drive out of my driveway, I go slowly, giving them time to disperse, and they do, in a slow lazy dance, as if they really do not, most certainly do not, have time for this human’s antics.

I wonder: Is it a mating place? A meeting place? A birthing place? A dying place? I can’t help but imagine the butterflies have been coming to this one spot for hundreds, thousands?, of years, and the development has not stopped them. I am glad my husband and I have kept our spot as wild as possible. We haven’t landscaped, preferring not to have a “yard.” Our property has plants and flowers that are unique, rare even, and we are careful to honor the ancient quality of where we live. There is an untamed beauty here, things hidden and known, understood and little understood.

Late spring last year when the butterflies came, I picked up a dead specimen. He was perfect, his body still, but the colors, the beauty of him made him still seem alive, as if I only had to touch him and he would lift his wings, flutter them, and then fly away from me. But he couldn’t fly away. He could be all mine, to forever keep. I carefully placed him in the palm of my hand, studied the color and craft of him. Then, I took him inside and laid him among my rocks, feathers, bark, bones, shells, and other mountain things I find. He stayed beautiful for a while, sitting on that shelf, but as time passed, he could no longer sustain such beauty and began to fall apart. I understood I’d done something I should not, and I returned him to his place on the mountain. The wind picked him up and carried him away away away. I watched. I wondered. I said, “Thank you for allowing me to keep you, just for a little while.” More will come. And come again. And again.

And I will wait for them.

The beauties of my mountain are not really mine, yet in a fashion they are. In inspiration’s mystery we find ourselves and our words and art and all the remarkable things we humans can do. It is not ours to keep on a shelf, but to let it find its own place among us, and then we share it in our own ways—we interpret it so that others can come to know and marvel with us.

From me to you I have given you my butterflies (inspiration for this post). What (inspiration) have you for me?


Kat Magendie, AuthorKat Magendie is Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal, and the author of three novels Tender Graces, Secret Graces, and Sweetie. Her novella “Petey” will be released June 2011 in the anthology The Firefly Dance along with authors Sarah Addison Allen and Augusta Trobaugh, and her final Virginia Kate book in the Graces Trilogy will be released this fall. Look for Kathryn’s books at your favorite neighborhood or online bookstore. Also look for the Kindle, iBook, or other e-reader versions. Join her on Twitter and her blog.
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21 Responses to Inspiration’s Mystery

  1. Vaughn Roycroft says:

    What a beautiful post, Kathryn. I too am inspired by nature and life’s cycles. Here in Michigan, I never tire of the seasons themselves, and the changes within. Spring’s first green shoots and wildflowers, poking through the strata of decay; Summer’s gorgeous rollick; The color orgy of the fall, followed by autumn’s golden decline; Then finally the lovely coating of snow, so fresh and clean – temporarily freezing our world here, providing a period of cozy restfulness and reflection. They’re all inspirational to me.

  2. Thank you Vaughn – your comment is inspiring! Now I’d like to see Michigan as I’ve never been – because of your words.

  3. Such an inspired AND inspiring post, Kathryn! It is my experience that inspiration defies most explanations, and yet you have touched upon this very mysterious thing so beautifully. Nature most definitely is forever an inspiration — more so when left alone by the spoiling ways of mankind. A beautifully turned phrase can set my heart aflutter and my mind spinning, as can a certain expression on a face unaware of being observed. Oh, and definitely, hands — rough hands holding gentle things, that wear their toil honorably — when I envision my characters one of the first things I see are their hands. Hands simply tell everything about a person. These two not so ordinary appendages that lead me into wondering over the life they hold and the burdens they have carried.

  4. Barbara – I love the image of hands that wear their toil honorably – beautiful.

  5. A beautiful post. The image of the butterfly as inspiration is wonderful. And yes, I too live in a lovely place and nature is the best source of inspiration.

    Thank you Cathryn and Kathryn

  6. And thank you, Anne, taking the time to stop a moment amidst nature and wonder and leaving a nice comment! *smiling*

  7. Glynis says:

    A magnificent post, with feeling, respect and love of nature. Lovely, Kathryn.
    I am inspired to write nature poems when I walk the vineyards, here in Cyprus.

    Glynis Smy (author)

  8. Good to see you here, Glynis! I can imagine your inspiration is lovely.

  9. Titus says:

    Oh, what a beautiful post.

    Here is the saddo’s answer: the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s words themselves what do it for me!

  10. Carolyn V says:

    Kathryn, it’s so beautiful! I love the inspiration of nature. =)

  11. YOU are a butterfly, spreading beautiful (sparkly!) things wherever you land. }i{

  12. Hello Titus, Carolyn, and Angie! Glad y’all stopped by the wonderful Catherine’s place *smiling* & Angie – you makin’ me blush *teeheehee 😀

  13. CathrynLouis says:

    :-D… No Kat isn’t confused. Cathryn (me) is Catherine (me).

    From My bio on my About page:

    …I use it because I have a middle schooler and her friends were very excited about me writing a book. They expected it to be YA, and it is SO not… The pen name and Sepia Flower make it a little harder (I’m not naive enough to think impossible) to find my writings online, and their parents appreciate the effort.

  14. Eryl says:

    What really inspired me about this post is that you tried to keep a dead butterfly but he began to fall apart. There’s something about the crumbling remains of human endeavour I find extraordinarily inspiring. I like to see the successes too!

  15. Deb Shucka says:

    A beautiful and inspiring post. I do the same thing with robin’s egg shells that I find in my wanders: keep them for a while then return them to their home.

  16. Hi Eryl and Deb *smiling* …. thank y’all for stopping by and leaving a nice comment here on Catherine’s wonderful blog!

    You should see all the stuff I have around my little log house: bones, skulls, rocks, bark, feathers, buckeye seeds, bird nests blown from trees, old hornet’s nest (empty of course) – I only take what doesn’t disrupt the wild or that has been abandoned.

  17. Walker says:

    Very nice post.
    I love you mountain with it’s mystic places that lures your imagination out to play but it doesn’t change the fact that every year a gazillion butterflies having an orgy on your front lawn.

  18. Walker! *laughing* – lawd be! …. 😀

  19. Julie Musil says:

    Oh, what a lovely post! I went for my walk this morning, and I was thankful I live in the country. I passed purple and yellow wildflowers, horses swishing their tails as they grazed on the weeds. Beautiful.

  20. Julie – your walk sounds lovely!

  21. Kat! What a beautiful post. I love it! I have always been a fan of your setting since we connected. What a treat for me to read such a thoughtful post about it. I feel the same in many ways about how location can profoundly impact inspiration. I draw a lot of energy and passion from the Southwestern desert. I don’t know why I just love it. Interestingly when I bought my house 2 years ago, I found myself out of the bustle of Los Angeles and in a suburb right on its edge. I find its raw natural beauty humbling. And while I love to visit desert cities I almost laugh because It just seems that in any moment the wind could just whisk it into the air away away away, just like your butterfly. Even big cities like Las Vegas. Perhaps they remind me that life here is temporary–be with it while it’s with you.

    Thanks for the great post. 🙂


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