Phoebe Snetsinger, the American birder who coped with terminal cancer and became famous for her book Birding On Borrowed Time, wrote about the healing power of birdwatching. More recently, Joe Harkness wrote about how birds helped him cope with depression and anxiety in Bird Therapy. Those books played at the back of my mind when I went butterfly-watching at a park in HSR Layout.
I had been battling a spell of bad health of late. After contracting a stubborn bacterial infection in early October, I was out sick for three weeks, and even in November I had not bounced back to a hundred percent. My body was weak and my mental state was far from mindful. I was on the verge of plunging into gloomy depression. That’s when I decided to get some air and go for a little post-breakfast stroll with the dear wife. At half past 10, it was too late for birds, although the odd tailorbird and bulbul still lingered. Yet, it felt good to thaw out in the sunshine.
Sunlight is healing. Sunlight in winter is bliss. Sunlight also brings out the butterflies.
A Common Emigrant, sleeping in late on a Sunday, stirred as I crept close for a picture. We followed a Tailed Jay in the hope of getting it to stay still for a photograph. No luck. Following a Lemon Pansy, we disturbed a young Rat Snake that was basking in the grass. It slithered away and vanished without a trace. Common Castors and Chocolate Pansies floated by, while the fragrant grass and flowering weeds played host to various Nymphalid blues, Grass Yellows and even a Psyche that sat perfectly still for a picture, my first of this species. I’ve found this butterfly particularly hard to photograph because it seldom sits still and its loopy flight pattern frustrates the photographer.
Common Mormons, a solitary Blue Mormon and even a Tailed Palmfly (a lifer for me) showed up. A Danaid Eggfly essayed a cameo. But my lifer of the day was an Indian Sunbeam. This tiny jewel of a butterfly appears snow-white on folded wings but spreads them to reveal a startling combination of black and bright orange.
The butterflies brought me out of my funk. I felt my mojo returning as I crept down on the ground, prostrate, to photograph a tiny Grass Yellow.
Somewhat reluctantly, the park guard announced that it was closing time and that we’d have to leave. But the butterflies had done their work — they had brought me back to life.