I thought this beautiful butterfly
was a butterfly,
then I thought, no,
it’s a moth—
it flies so softly
and has that raggedy-looking edge
on its wings.
Then I emailed the photos
to John Fischer
who keeps a moth count in Oklahoma:
It’s a butterfly—
a Mourning Cloak, it’s called.
Unless it’s in England,
then it’s the Camberwell Beauty.
The name, Mourning Cloak,
comes from the butterfly’s markings,
which resemble a priest’s funeral robes.
It’s found in North America and Europe
and is one of the few butterflies
that hibernates over the winter.
John says that on warm, sunny winter days
this dark-winged beauty
can sometimes be seen flying softly
around snow-laden woods.

I had seen the Camberwell Beauty yesterday
and was delighted to see it again this morning.
It was feeding at a hummingbird feeder.
Hummingbird, chirping, sipping,
zoomed in and out;
honey bees,
hungrily going after the sugar water
for days now,
were gathering.
When Mourning Cloak fluttered down
to sun itself
on a stone in the garden,
I, still barefoot,
stepped off the porch
to get a closer look.
Instantly, there was a stinging
on the bottom of my right foot.
I lifted it
and saw a honey bee squirming
in the mulch underfoot,
beneath the hummingbird feeder.
A closer look and photograph
of a Camberwell Beauty
were worth the wound
for me,
but, alas, perhaps not for the honey bee.
Honey bees die after they sting.

What a many-layered
early-morning reflection
this brings:
here I am,
feeding honey bees
and hummingbirds
and, unintentionally, the beautiful Camberwell Beauty;
and, trying to capture the essence of that Beauty,
unintentionally fatally interfering with a honey bee
after all.
Here is Mourning Cloak
unintentionally,
I’m pretty sure,
simply gifting its presence.
Here is hungry honey bee,
willing to die,
to protect its community.
Here we are,
little parts of this beautiful universe,
doing what we do,
the best we can,
on a cool, sunny morning.
Update: John Fischer says this siting is a Noble County record. Plus, he’s never seen a butterfly nectaring at a hummingbird feeder before.