The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson
Our cat Huckleberry didn’t come home the other night. We called and called but no gray cat with handsome striped tail showed up, so the lights were turned out and we went to bed. The next morning he still wasn’t around. Our various neighbors hadn’t seen him and it was suggested we go along the road looking in the ditch. No cat in ditches, fortunately, or in culverts.
In the late afternoon we walked to the meadow across the way. Pushing aside sun-warmed pockets of cottony fireweed and goldenrod blossoms nodding benevolently in the breeze, we moved into a clearing when suddenly hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies burst into the air, flitting hither and yon as only butterflies can. Everywhere we looked we saw more of these lovely creatures clinging to goldenrod petals or balancing delicately on silvery fireweed leaves, their wings pulsing gently.
Why hadn’t we noticed them before? I guess we’d been worrying about our cat Huckleberry and feeling generally down, what with the news about hurricanes and earthquakes and other global malaise; but when we looked up, our Island world was full of Painted Ladies. Back home we watched butterflies swooping over the treetops from the northeast and dipping through the yard before heading purposefully south. What would happen when they got to the shore? We went down to the Cove to watch, and it was amazing: hundreds—thousands—of butterflies zooming over our heads in some sort of mass migration and heading out to sea as if to say, “Amherst, here we come!”
How little we know about the life around us. We humans think we’re busy right now with our harvesting and preserving and getting ready for winter, but Painted Ladies live perhaps two weeks in the butterfly stage, during which time they have to flutter around and look beautiful, mate, lay eggs, and have some sort of meaningful experiences (one hopes). Butterflies and all the other creatures great and small must not like hurricanes any more than we do, and one wonders why Painted Ladies showed up in such numbers just now.
But back to Huckleberry. Hours passed and still no cat. The only place we hadn’t looked was the freshly harrowed seagull-filled field behind our house. Kitty kitty!…What was that? A tiny meow? Kitty kitty! Sure enough, a gray cat was wa-a-ay up in a tree, looking and sounding mighty pitiful.
So the cat came back, and we can relax.
Geese are passing noisily overhead. Mountain ashes are drooping with bouquets of waxy orange-red berries, and spruce trees are absolutely laden with cones: our neighbor said that she heard spruce cones popping open! That seems impossible, but I looked closely at a sappy spruce cone and sure enough, it has to pop open. Check for yourself.
A few Painted Lady butterflies linger among the golden fall flowers, reluctant to leave this beautiful Island; and who can blame them?