Butterflies

Last weekend, I went camping with my family and some friends to a place none of us had been before in Central Oregon. Yes, it was hot and dry, and we were very worried about the fire danger, but we did it anyway. No campfires allowed, so that was a minor loss of ambiance, though it was too hot most of the time to feel like sitting around a campfire anyway.

Some of us arrived on Thursday night and others on Friday. We had 4 dogs between us all in the group and they took a little while to get used to each other. After a fair bit of distanced introductions followed by a healthy round of butt-sniffing, they all got along great. My husband and I brought along our kayaks and inflatable fishing boat to tour around the small lake at the center of the campground. There was also a trail that led all the way around and many of us took the time to stroll around the lake (about 30 minutes).

The best part of the whole experience was the wildlife. Over the course of the weekend we saw many trout (also caught and ate those), ducks, coots, geese, frogs, toads, grasshoppers, chipmunks/ground squirrels, deer, snakes and even an owl! Then there were the butterflies. We noticed a couple here and there, fluttering around in the sunshine in our parking area. But the most magical sight was when you walked around to the far side of the lake. Many bright purple and yellow flowers were blooming and each bloom was covered with butterflies! I saw at least 4-5 different types. Some orange and black, some orange, white and black, some just black and white, some gray with little pips on their wings that looked like large eyes when they sat still. I haven’t seen so many butterflies in one place for decades! It was awe-inspiring.

As you may know, the global butterfly population has been severely diminished over the last few decades. Whether this is a function of pesticide use, climate change or habitat loss, or a combination of all three, it is clear that humans have had a drastic effect on the number of butterflies left in the world, which is precisely why I was so enthralled by the sight at the lake. This was a place so relatively unscathed that these butterflies appeared to be thriving.

Butterflies, and many other insects, are quite sensitive to their environment and will vanish from a landscape with the smallest change that may be imperceptible to other species. Most humans have very poor senses to detect changes so slight in their environment, but some of us are more sensitive than others.

I have known many people who can tell if a storm is coming because they feel it in their joints. Others can tell the temperature without looking at a thermometer within a degree or two. Or some can be thrown completely off kilter by a change in their environment or an energy in a room. Sometimes these things are called ESP, or extra-sensory perception, meaning one perceives things that are beyond the senses of a “normal” human. But some of us are abnormal in that way.

Autistic people tend to have sensitivities to environmental stimuli that generally have little or no effect on others. Sometimes these sensitivities are cause for one’s disability, like not being able to function when the lights are too bright or the room is too cold or nearby people are too noisy. But other sensitivities can provide insight when we are grounded enough to hear what our extra sensitivity is telling us. For many autistic folks, this is a “both and” situation. You can’t have one without the other.

I wonder if the butterflies can predict the weather as well.

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