Chasing Butterflies in Golden Gate Park

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

The signs on the street teased me. Now they are gone, like butterflies in winter. Black with bright butterflies and blooms, the banners called me to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park like sweet nectar attracts butterflies. Surely my blog would emerge from its cocoon in time to write about the butterfly garden at the Conservatory. I had six months to get it done.

Getting started

I bought the domain name, and hired a graphic designer. I had a list of topics – 52 of them – a year’s worth, like a deck of cards. I could pick any one and start writing. But the days flitted by filled with other work, other projects.

I felt deadline pressure whenever I saw the street banners. But the list of what I needed to do made me breathless: write copy; learn WordPress, Lightroom and SmugMug. Learn how to watermark my pictures. Pull together an email list. Get comfortable on Facebook. Tackle Twitter. I wanted to emerge from my chrysalis flying. Instead I was still creeping.

I’ve chased butterflies in Costa Rica, Bali and my backyard. I’ve felt kissed by the gods when a butterfly landed on me. I’ve shot video of yellow swallowtails in a verdant meadow at Point Reyes, and I followed overwintering monarchs to a park in Fremont. I smile whenever I see one of the little white butterflies with purple markings sidle up to the lavender in my garden. I wonder what the lavender smells like to the butterfly. Is it overwhelming? Intoxicating? Does it signify lunch or feel like home?

A reprieve

One day the street banners sported a bright yellow slash: The exhibit was extended for six months. Surely I could get the blog up by then. The writing was easy; I wrote about dolphins and mandarins. The photos were my challenge. How do I size them, display them? Big images that span the page? A grid of close-ups? Do people want to see the butterfly’s bulging eyes or the magic of its wings? Is my goal to be timely – hey, you can see what I saw – or reflective?

More than the writing, I wanted to share my images of butterflies with their prehistoric, segmented bodies attached to appendages of exquisite beauty. The more I looked at the photos magnified on the computer, the more it seemed as if Alice’s hookah-smoking caterpillar created his own wings. I was as hooked on butterflies as that caterpillar was hooked on his pipe.

But frustration grew from pleasure. The hours of tutorials became tedious. I’d rather be at the Conservatory chasing butterflies. The humid, faux tropical air cleared my mind. All else was gone. In the Conservatory I become a hunter, stalking my prey with my camera and macro lens, utterly focused, completely concentrated.

As hard as I try, I’m more “Little-Engine-That-Could” than hookah-smoking caterpillar. Days pass. Then weeks. Magic isn’t happening. I started to call myself the “Slow Blogger,” not because I blog about slow food, but because I’ve been stuck in a slow place. How many generations of butterflies have emerged from their cocoons in the time it’s taken me to start nibbling out of mine? “Get it done, get it done,” beat their wings.

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  1. the butterfly has emerged !…what a brilliant way to tell the tale of our struggles to get things done !!!

    • Thanks Susan!


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