Dark Star of My Father's Butterfly Garden

We called my parents on Monday morning to chat, but we didn't get them the first time we rang. So we called back in about 20 minutes, and my dad picked up the phone. "Did you call earlier?" he asked; "I was out in the garden picking tomatoes before the rain." He said he thought we might stop by sometime soon (he knows that Lee-Maters are catnip to a girl like me!).

On Thursday, it cleared after several days of rain, and we decided that Friday would be a good day to visit. We packed up the car and headed down. T. Tiger, who got left behind on our last visit home, had his bags packed and was waiting by the door. I took along some of my peach cobbler as a treat for my parents.

We arrived to find my parents in pretty good condition, having just had their lunch. My dad had been out and about that morning, and he told me he'd picked up some sweet corn for us in his travels. On the back porch lay 17 of his own red-ripe tomatoes, perfect for eating! So we are now 17 tomatoes and 7 ears of sweet corn to the good!

We spent the afternoon visiting and my dad told us a bunch of stories from the old days. He said that Mom wants him to write his life's story down: just the stuff from before the time they met, which is to say his childhood and early teen years. He told us about farming, and about share-cropping during the Great Depression.

The farm where my dad was born is a stone's throw from our family church, St. John's. And we have a family plot there, where my big sister Barb's mortal remains lie, and where mine will someday lie too, not far from hers.

My father could walk - in about five minutes - from the spot where he was born to the spot where he will be buried someday. I don't know why I'm telling you this but it feels like it matters. Rolling stones gather no moss, they say. But the sorts of stones I'm made from are apparently not the rolling kind. I am surprised mine have rolled as far as they have, to be honest!

I took a few minutes to walk out and survey my father's garden with him. There is one huge pumpkin left; the one with the bear claw and chew marks on, alas, went bad, and got thrown into the weeds. There are some tomatoes left on the vine, but not many. 

The story of the year for my dad's garden, though, is the Mexican sunflower plot, which is simply astounding. I gave him some seeds last summer, and now somehow we have this year's crop. It takes up about a third to a half of the garden, and the orange flowers - a Tithonia variety - are always full of birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It is a pollinator magnet and I highly recommend it! My father's garden has been transformed into a BUTTERFLY garden because of me!

I took the opportunity to snap some pictures of this black butterfly, which I believe to be a dark morph of the eastern tiger swallowtail. I am not sure I've seen one before. Isn't it dark and lovely? It was the star of the show!

I caught my mom visiting with T. Tiger, and snapped a few pictures. In the extras, you may see a picture of the two of them sharing a private joke. What a charming scene to walk in on! T. Tiger adores my mother and he was quite put out about having been left behind last time, so he made up for lost time!

And then it was time to go, and I cut a few blooms from the sunflower patch, and I put them in a plastic cup to take along. We gave our farewell kisses and hugs and I love you's and piled into the car to head for home; we drove away as my mother waved good-bye from the living room window.

Our travels weren't over, for we would stop at Hairy John's picnic area along route 45 for a quick wade on our journey. I waded in the water and took my camera with me: snapped photos of the patterns on the water, as is my wont. The ripples moved away from me, broke up the reflections, diminished as they went: here, and then gone; like summertime itself, here, and then gone. . . .

My soundtrack songs: for the black butterfly above, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with Straight Into Darkness; and for the pair in the extras enjoying their private joke: the Bee Gees, with I Started a Joke.

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