By Kathryn Ganfield
Our shadows fell scant on the Ozawindib shore, where the afternoon sun beat down the slope of the boat ramp. Beneath our feet the concrete was grooved to give traction to trucks and boat trailers that backed up and down it to deposit watercraft in this calm lake, long and fat as a flukeworm. Green algae clung to every concrete rib. And, like fool’s gold, stones of fire-flint, in the skim of water there lay lustrous deposits: swallowtails, the yellowest of butterflies. They mud-puddled there, on fish scales, bones, and other nutrition.
With every lapping wave or canoe wake, dozens of swallowtails lifted as one, and they reminded me of the library where I once worked. At day’s end, patrons rose from their padded seats, quiet and accepting. Knowing it was time to leave sweet pages, leave the magazine room so rich with ink and bindings and downcast lamplight.
Later I learned they were all male swallowtails, seeking salts and aminos.
When we returned home from our trip north, we found a caterpillar of this same species in a bed of curly parsley. Hanging still, crooked as a shepherd’s staff. He broke from his chrysalis twenty days later, on Bastille Day, storming the summer morning. He stretched, a free standard bearer in regulation colors—broad, bright, but all alone.
I wished, for him, that he had friends to puddle with, to gleam like gold lamé, to deceive the eyes. A fellowship with which to lift, en masse, into the cloudless July sky.
Kathryn Ganfield is a nature writer and essayist in the river town of St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a multi-time winner of Creative Nonfiction magazine’s Tiny Truths contest. Her words were published most recently in Eastern Iowa Review, Six Sentences and Complete Sentence Lit; new work is forthcoming in Five Minutes Lit and Sleet Magazine. Find her on Twitter @KTGanfield.