By Joann M. Ringelstetter
In 2008, Ruth and I began our fall photographing on September 28 in Vernon County, Wisconsin. Around lunch time, we headed down a quiet backroad that we love to travel. There is an old house on one side of the road and an old garage on the other.
On the side of the garage is a large sumac bush that turns blazing orange in the fall. It was a bit too early for the blazing sumac, but we were rewarded with some brightly colored Raggedy Ann Zinnias instead. We pulled to the side of the road and, as I was grabbing my camera and tripod, I suggested to Ruth that she locate a park where we could have our picnic lunch. Then I headed over to the flowers for what I thought would be some fairly quick shots.
After capturing several images of the zinnias, I realized that a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly was sitting on one of the flowers in the back. So I ran back to the car to get a different lens. By the time I returned, the butterfly had flown away. I was just about to head back to the car when I realized that it was circling around and coming back. For the next hour and a half, I stood there in awe as this butterfly did its work of drinking nectar from the brightly-colored flowers for a few seconds and then taking flight, very slowly making a huge circle, and returning to the flowers for more nectar.
What was so amazing to me was that the butterfly was totally engrossed in drinking the sweet nectar and didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence. I was many times only an inch away, looking into its face as it worked. We’ve explained on the “About Shunpiking” page that when we’re on a backroad and not one single car goes by for an hour, that’s our version of heaven. Well, that’s what this road was like – quiet and peaceful, with only the sounds of nature in our ears. And, call me crazy, but at one point, I swear I heard this butterfly slurping the nectar from the flower. I told myself that it was my imagination, but then I moved ever so close and I heard it again – a definite slurping sound. It was both mystical and amazing.
Thank heavens Ruth is a very patient person because we were both very hungry by the time we left (and in desperate need of a restroom, I might add). And, although this butterfly was tattered and torn (a rather appropriate condition considering the Raggedy Ann Zinnias it was visiting), I never even noticed this until later when I was processing the images on the computer. To me, it was one of the most beautiful butterflies I've ever encountered and one of the most mystical experiences I've ever had.