The Eclipse on the Wing of a Butterfly
- Being Human
- Being Outside
- Earth and Sky
- Photography and Optics
- What's This?
THE HEAVENS RESIDE on the wings butterflies, and you can reach for the gods among “the blues.”
Blues are a group of tiny butterflies in the family Lycaenidae, which we call the gossamer-wings. Most of the time they appear to be frauds: no blue. That’s because these butterflies prefer to perch with their blue upper wings hidden, folded closed over the body. It’s how they roll (er, land).
Here in North America, we’ve got about 34 species of blues (subfamily Polyommatinae), many of which we have named for mythological figures: Philotes was a goddess of affection and sex. Cupido brought love to the world. His wife Psyche was a goddess of the soul. And Icarus taught us the lesson of hubris. Each is represented among the scientific names of the blues.
So maybe it’s fitting that the blues can carry Heaven to Earth (like Icarus in reverse). Although they certainly flash blue in flight, when perched the blues show us heavenly bodies and celestial events. On their underwings I see lightning and comets and solar systems — and even the sun and the moon in perfect alignment.
Cupid and Psyche seem to reflect the best total solar eclipse — tiny black spots with glowing halos on the wings of Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas) and Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). (By the way, Cupid and Psyche’s relationship was, uh, well, complicated.)
So here below is your total solar eclipse — a series of them, actually. Hardly some distant celestial events, each eclipse performs atop a flower or otherwise within our grasp — including on the tip of my finger. In my hand I can hold the sun and the moon — and in these gossamer wings I can even hear the music of the spheres.