Splendor in the Grass, Glory in the Flower!

Back in the very beginning, which is to say 1986, the man who would become my husband lived in Philipsburg, and I - freshly graduated from Penn State - lived in State College. We used to meet in the middle sometimes - he drove a 1975 yellow Chevy Nova and I drove a 1974 blue Ford Torino (it was so big and I was so small that I had to put a pillow on and strap myself in to drive it!) - and go hiking up on Sandy Ridge.

On this day, we decided to go back to our early stomping grounds. And boy, am I glad we did! You just wouldn't BELIEVE the butterflies! We parked our car and walked into the gamelands, first on a gravel road, then on a grassy path that took us through several stands of milkweed plants.

There were monarch butterflies galore, and all kinds of other butterflies. There were big butterflies and little butterflies. They flitted all around, flying through the milkweed, landing, sitting a while, and floating joyfully just above the grass.

As we stood watching, a pair of monarch butterflies flew by. Or rather, one butterfly was flying; the other was sort of . . . attached, and being dragged along by the other butterfly. I grabbed my camera for some photos - this is a thing you hardly ever get to see! - but I couldn't get a single shot off. Wibbly-wobbly, the butterfly pair flew away, awkwardly. I couldn't believe I missed the shot.

So we set up our chairs in the shade of the trees, and I came back out to stalk the milkweed stands with my camera. I walked carefully through the field, watching my feet, for there were butterflies everywhere. And I came upon a pair of monarchs, attached to one another, in the grass. The one on top was struggling to move. I noticed by the black spots on its hind wings that it was a male.

I don't know if it was the pair we had already spotted, or another pair. I think there were just two of them, but at times it looked like more. You may see a photo of the monarchs enjoying a little splendor in the grass in the extras.

The weather, I must say, was absolutely delightful. It was like a summer's day from childhood. I am not sure the temperature ever hit 80 there. More like high 60s or low 70s, with really lovely breezes that made the butterflies dance. It was exquisite. It was more than that: It was a pure slice of butterfly heaven.

We stayed as long as we could, which is to say - until we ran out of snack bars and beverages, and our thoughts began to turn to food. We agreed we'd try to leave by around 5 pm, so a half-hour before that, I got up out of my chair and took one more lap around the milkweed patches.

And what did I discover but a pair of spicebush swallowtails enjoying some of the afternoon's delights on a milkweed plant. They almost looked like mirror images: one right-side up, the other upside-down. I was able to get close enough to get some great shots, which were among my best of the day.

Here is the news from Sandy Ridge, fresh, from me to you: Things may seem dire in some places for butterflies, but do not let your hearts be troubled, dear ones. You may rest assured that the butterflies up on Sandy Ridge are doing their part to ensure the survival of the species!  <insert sappy grin>

My husband and I observed to each other that there is probably nothing so peaceful and cheery as spending a whole afternoon watching the butterflies dance and play. And so it was that the butterflies - and we, the watchers - thoroughly enjoyed the hours of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower.

The soundtrack song is this one: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with Two Hearts.

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