Today a butterfly sat on my shoulder

That’s not an unusual occurrence for a gardener who works outside as much as I do, because butterflies are drawn to the salty sweat we produce. And in this heat, I’m definitely doing more than just “glow.” It’s said to be lucky to have a butterfly land on one’s shoulder, and I’m not one to flaunt luck, but I’m also not one who often stays still for long. But today felt different. I had been working hard in the heat, digging trenches to plant leeks, and decided to take a short break, drink some fluid, and sit in the shade of the sweet peas on my Dad’s bench. As soon as I sat down, the butterfly landed on my shoulder, and I decided in that instant to stay still as long as it did the same.

Several minutes passed, and I found myself beginning to get a little impatient. Normally, I would have just gone back to work, butterfly or no butterfly. Patience is not one of my virtues. And then I thought about a couple of “problems” that my impatience has already caused this year. I had “mystery” squash, and now a couple more “mystery” plants because I became impatient for planted seeds to sprout, and dumped the soil into other containers, or replanted the pot, only to later have that squash or melon (or whatever it is!) sprout! So, I sat quietly. I looked around at the productive potager. Here’s the view to the left.

The left (west) side of the potager.

That shade cloth so “carefully” draped (not!) over the “Summer Perfection” spinach was added on July 3 when our hot temperatures were rising even higher. It’s not very elegant, but it was a quick fix. The”Summer Perfection” spinach is absolutely gorgeous, 6-7″ across and 10″ long, and not showing signs of bolting yet. I want to see just how long it can go in this heat. (It was 96 degrees F, with high humidity again today.) I’ve been picking enough for a salad every other day. Fortunately we like a variety of spinach salads (Oriental with water chestnuts, bean sprouts, bacon, hard-boiled eggs) or citrus (with slivered almonds and mandarin orange segments) or one with grated carrots, fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and a warm bacon dressing. There are enough “Seascape” strawberries to make the one with strawberries and pecans tomorrow.

The right (east) side of the potager.

Normally, I look at the potager with a critical eye, noting only the ugly brown stalks and leaves on the garlic, the marigolds that need deadheading, the bolting lettuce. I suspect that comes from 40 years of owning a business where the gardens and shop were open to the public, and I had to quickly note (and try to fix) any “ugly” spots that customers were sure to note. And believe me, customers were quick to note any problem areas, even if there were dozens of pretty areas to view. It was one of the lessons I was slowest to learn, because I tended to visit other people’s gardens and be bowled over by the beautiful, slow to note anything that wasn’t!

So today, as the butterfly continued to sit on my shoulder, I attempted to look at the potager with positive eyes. It has so much potential, and so much beauty even after the lushness of spring has passed and the brutal heat of summer is pushing the plants’ tolerance. The bugs are beginning to arrive. The first squash bugs have been found, along with some egg clusters. The Japanese beetles are multiplying at alarming rates, and the first two tomato hornworms have been moved to the “sacrificial” plants still in flats (and never to be planted in the potager) so that they can eventually become moths but not destroy the plants intentionally cultivated. The “sacrificial” plants were supposed to go to the garden club plant sale, but of course it was not held, so they are now the worm buffet.

I have no idea how long the butterfly sat on my shoulder, sucking up sweat from my T-shirt. Certainly longer than I ever imagined it would stay. I could have (and normally would have) looked at my cell phone clock, but that might have disturbed it, so I refrained. I sat motionless, drinking in the fragrance of the sweet peas and enjoying their colors. I’ve never grown such happy sweet peas before, so that makes 2020 a special year. The cauliflower and broccoli have been amazing, and the melons are setting on at warp speed. So what if there are no summer squash, no cucumbers, no green peppers yet. There will be soon. I just need to be patient. “Normally” there are baskets brimming, but right now, I’m trying to embrace all those things that are not so normal. Like me, sitting still, with a butterfly on my shoulder…..


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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16 Responses to Today a butterfly sat on my shoulder

  1. That butterfly taught you quite a few lessons! Patience is indeed a virtue, and like you, it’s not one of my virtues either. 😉


  2. sdeden says:

    Such a great post! Thank you for writing about the butterfly and your thoughts. It made a great start to my day!


  3. What a beautiful moment. It’s such a joy to stop and appreciate the world every now and again. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Margaret Reilly says:

    I love this reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the garden.


    • carolee says:

      I certainly do. I can get so caught up in the weeding, that I forget to look at the flowers and the beauty around me. I need a “pause” setting!


  5. woollee1 says:

    Love this! The idea a butterfly can bring us into the present and stay awhile. What a beautiful space you have, definite potager goals. Is it walled/hedged for protection?


  6. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I was so pleased to read this post. Like you I spend time working, seeing things that need doing and rarely just enjoy it. Mine could be more productive – I am learning slowly how to do better – but it is lush, green, soothing, peaceful and I am supplementing my diet with homegrown food. I think lots of us need to upgrade our pause setting and use it more!


  7. Peg says:

    Ugh, I dread the arrival of the squash bugs. I didn’t have any last year or the year before, but if the earwig population is any indication of how the squash bugs are going to be, it will be a bad year. Love the butterfly story, they never seem to land on me!


  8. Your story reminds me of a story in my family. In my family we’ve taken to the notion that those family members that have passed before us come to visit us in different forms….my uncle is an Eagle, my dad is a dragon fly, whenever the lights flicker it’s my grandma…it doesn’t happen on purpose, it’s just something that happens. We seen a dragon fly on our cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean….?! You certainly are a busy lady, it was nice of that butterfly to slow you down a bit & share some magic with you!


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