Are We Allowed to Look? Amidst All the Chaos Life Somehow Flourishes

There are no two ways about it. Modern humans and our current lifestyles are inherently destructive. Yes, we have always been destructive but today I would reckon that we are mostly unaware of this widespread destruction in an ecological sense. Take, for example, the simple idea of homes and suburbs. When someone buys a home, their mind never goes to the possible animals that might have lived here before the current home was built there. Without even thinking, most people inhabit a space that was never ours. But amidst all of this life still managed to flourish and carry on. Take, for example, a species of butterfly that is part of the Acraea family found in South Africa. Currently, they are flourishing in my garden. Everywhere where I walk these butterflies fly around enjoying the many blooming flowers. And isn’t it amazing how they reproduce so quickly and are seemingly unaware of our presence? I walked past two butterflies mating and I thought to myself: Are we allowed to look at this sacred dance they are performing?


I am not sure what specific species this butterfly is. But it has been in my garden for many years. I have a fond memory of my younger self just getting into photography. I found a pair of butterflies mating, just like these two, and to my naïve mind, it was a forbidden dance that I was not familiar with. Today, still trying to be that naïve child, I watch as these two butterflies dance this forbidden dance to make a new life, to carry on a ritual that is as old as time itself.


Throughout my garden, the evidence of their presence is there. Interestingly, they use the walls of the house to hang their pupa. Or the caterpillar crawls up the wall and turns into a pupa there. Away from the trees, I think they have found that the walls although vulnerable, are better suited for them. In the trees, I reckon the birds have better access to them. I would guess that the birds like the pupa snacks, so is life. One animal is the meal of the other. Here is an empty "pod" of a previous pupa. Now a butterfly, seeking a mate to dance this forbidden dance with.


Right next to the empty pod, I guess is the brother or sister. Still a pupa, not a caterpillar anymore, but not yet a butterfly. The caterpillars managed to crawl what must have felt like miles and miles to their little feet to the wall on which the pupa hangs now. Exposed to every eye that walks past, somehow they managed to survive in this manner. Nature is amazing.


The detail and color on this pupa are like an artwork. Again, nature is the ultimate artist. See below for more photographs of these pupae that hang from the walls.


Like a spaceship in sci-fi movies, these creatures lure one in to take a closer look. Are they aliens? If you look closely, you can see the "web" they spun from which they hang. This was on a window, and the web-like structure is much more visible.


I walk back to where the mating is taking place, or the forbidden dance. On the opposite wall where all the pupae hang, a lone ranger climbs yet another wall. Tiny feet helping it along, it scales what must feel like the highest of mountains. What would we do if we needed to climb Mount Everest for our survival? Like Sysiphus pushing the rock up the mountain, these butterflies ascent the mountains of walls every time, never-ending, like a Sysiphusean horror, but they always smile. We must imagine them happy.


Back to the forbidden dance, they are still at it. Seemingly never-ending, I do not know how long the dance lasts. I take a couple of more images and leave them at it. I still feel that I am not allowed to watch.


Amidst all the chaos and destruction, life manages to find a way. I try to plant the plants that are native to the area, to encourage local indigenous animals to thrive. Amidst all of the destruction, the constant whining of the chainsaws ripping through their homes, the constant tearing down of the natural habitats, I feel that my contribution does not make that much difference. But I keep on hoping that they will see this enclave as a safe space in which they can reproduce.


Am I allowed to look? I look above and I see yet another pair dancing their forbidden dance between the leaves of a tree that the caterpillars love. I quickly take a photograph and move on.


A few steps onward, I hear the familiar sound of the Cape white-eye birds. I wonder: Do they eat the pupae or caterpillars? Do they hunt the butterflies and feed them to their chicks? I try to look but cannot see anything.


We see the damage on the leaves of our plants and crops. We get angry at these caterpillars devouring our plants. But we seldom think that the native birds eat them, feed them to their growing chicks. We want a perfect garden without bugs and critters destroying the leaves of our prized plants, but we never think about the loss of bird species if we get rid of only one such seemingly insignificant component. Nature is amazing albeit vicious and destructive. We as humans are destructive in a bad way: we feed our own self-interest. I hope that more people will come to know that we need to do better.

(All the images are my own, taken with the trusty old Nikon D300 and zoom lens. The musings are also of my own, albeit that nature is the inspiration.)

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