We All Fall Down
The world is reflowering. And this is fueling a fluttered fury of fornication. Exactly the consonance I have been waiting for. Oh sunbeams you know not what you do. Orangetips race and race closely over the ground, spin and retrace, looking for small white blooms. They seem to land on anything white, searching for nectar (the fuel beneath the fuel for the fluttered forn…oh, you know what I mean). They seem to despise yellow and red, these lovely lepids. The delicate males and their tangerine tips, the males with their maps of black and green underwing, they go and go, they go go go. It is so much new motion in these budding woods. Various species of other Orangetip butterflies are, no doubt, filling the woods across the rest of the world—Europe, Siberia. Though this is the only one I personally know.
Here and there the syrphids flare. (Ah, precisely.) The first flower flies. More Cardamine and Dentaria and the unfolding Senecio try to tempt them. They buzz any color they see—goggled, multitudinous facetation of flora. I can only imagine. They even examine the butterflies that pass. They are easily tempted by anything, though wary of my own loom and shadow. They buzz up and give me the good strong eye (and eye and eye and eye) when I move too close.
Across the leaves I see a red so red it cannot be new. I stalk over to it, avoiding fresh flower heads and violet bunches. It is a palmate pair of deep red leaves. I follow its stalk down into last year’s carpet of leavings and find a burnished nut uncoiling. It is a buckeye converting its magic nutfuel into a crimson anomaly. It should be green. But this thing is its own nutlet. Damn the chlorophyll, full speed ahead.
The Fence Lizards, always the first reptiles to be common in the sun, are slipping and leafskimming everywhere. They come up on their trunks and branches to survey the giants. The males scintillate an occasional blue. They cock their heads. There are flying things to eat once again and things that fly to eat them too. And it is all good from up here in the heady altitude of human eyesight.
Up the hill I am Orangetip mad. My visual lobes have burned hot in their perception thereof, in their fluttered transect circuitries. And in all this retinal heat a blue butterfly comes to me. He sets off all new neurons. What ho the eye? This visitor appears to crash straight into the leaves but it is just a normal landing. It seems so fast and purposeful between all the Orangetips. It is a Spring Azure. Named to tell us. Colored to astound. It does.
And there in the oak litter nearby another reptile tail is flashing. It spins in and out of sight. I think something has been captured. A serpent may be in the act of eating. And I go over and stoop with my lens to take its picture. I can just see the peeking segment of a Western Ribbon Snake. It is very still. Must be swallowing, I think. And I push aside the leaves eventually to find the little snake is slowly coiling in upon itself. It is in some deathspiral, some sudden agony of contraction. And it is barely one year old at most. I pick it up but it is nearly limp. It has a huge gazing eye that still shines clearly but I do not believe it sees me anymore, or the decoration of Orangetips still around me on the wing. I fold it back gently onto its leafbed. Some spider? Something it ate?
Up the hill I am alert for the first dragonfly but it does not come. A wasp antennaes the local stones. The verbena is bursting everywhere and three different violet species are purpling the air along with them. The Blackjack Oaks have not broken their own buds. But soon they will flop out and the Black-and-white Warblers will frisk them for their buggy goods. Soon all the traveling warblers will fall right out of the sky and ornament whatever they touch. I try to picture it and find a Kinglet flycatching some insects above me. Oh, how he has been waiting to do that. If not the absolute, he is at least somewhat warblerish. He will soon go away. Replacements are coming. These northern greenlets have been singing all over the hillside this morning. Along with the new chatter of Robins and the sudden breaks of whispering waxwings—the repeated distant cry of hawks, Fish Crows that honk ubiquitously.
I see no more snakes over the hill and back. Just the one dying in the leaves, a youngster who couldn’t hold it all I guess. His brothers and sisters are no doubt making their way here somewhere around me where he is not. I doubt the spider did it. I doubt it was a venom of any kind. Perhaps it was that kindlier death. You know the one. The cause I keep avoiding somehow. This is the time for it. Imminent (and eminent), quietly subversive, the sudden syndrome abounding—the breath choked off, the heart stopped by amazement, by the incandescence of it all, in something akin, we could say, to Vernal Fibrillation.
All I can say is “Beware.”