I Want it All, and I Want it Now

18033858 1521088801258173 1450011722270717417 nLessons & Reflections from the National Butterfly Center

I’ve taken a million butterfly photos only to get a few hundred good ones. Not even great ones, just good. Some “pretty good,” and a few I’m a little proud of, but mostly a lot of shots where I felt lucky the wind didn’t blow and the butterfly didn’t move. I know DSLR cameras and automatic settings are supposed to make it easy for true amateurs like me to take great pictures, but it’s just not the case. It takes practice. And patience. And then perseverance.

When I think about photography, I think about those baking shows on TV. The shows where a bunch of hungry competitors are challenged to make the perfect cupcake in 30 minutes, or something ridiculous like that. You can give it a try, but your cupcake will not be half as good as theirs because baking is all about Chemistry; and creating recipes or making something from scratch requires a lot of knowledge and a lot of trial by fire.  In other words, you have to make—and toss—a bunch of bad cupcakes before you get some pretty good ones, the same way you have to take and erase countless bad pictures.

This Earth Day, I got to see nature and the National Butterfly Center through a new lens, again, like a spectator enjoying some curiosity (reference the championship bakers on TV). Beyond the everyday questions like, “What is the place?’ and “Why are you doing this?” we faced some criticism and got a few complaints about things the initiated would never think to mention.

“When are you going to pave the parking lot?”

“Why don’t you spray for mosquitoes?”

And my personal favorite, “Where can I buy the butterflies?”

This last question brings me back to the fact that I know people want beauty in their lives, and I hope this will be our saving grace. They want AMAZING! and award-winning. They want butterflies, they just don’t want to put in the work.  Investing the time to learn, the effort to plant, and the patience to yield results is just plain unappealing in a world where Amazon can deliver 100 Painted Ladies to your front door tomorrow.  Point. Click. Presto!

As for me, it’s been almost five years, here, learning and planting, practicing and growing, and I can tell you I still have a lot to learn. I am starting to landscape my yard with a variety of host and nectar plants, and anxious to see the fruits of my labor.  I’ve suffered one casualty, a Betony Mistflower, and as temperatures are forecast to reach 106 degrees today, we’ll see how drought-hearty these natives really are!

People can go to cooking school and take photography classes, but Gardening for Butterflies courses are harder to come by, and we know why: It doesn’t matter how well we distill it or simple we make it, it’s still work. You have to put some sweat and planning into creating habitat for them, into designing environments that entice and satisfy them, even if you are a lazy gardener like me. The closest thing I’ve found to a “model” course for the I-want-it-now set addresses a demographic with a fundamentally different passion:  Attracting Butterflies to your Feng Shui Garden for Dummies.

You can read it online, just please don’t order any butterflies there!

P.S. The Ruby-spotted Swallowtail photo is Luciano's not mine, so be encouraged!

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Inside the National Butterfly Center

Hours of Operation

September - March
8:00 - 5:00

April - August
8:00 - 5:00

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National Butterfly Center
3333 Butterfly Park Drive
Mission, TX 78572
GPS Coordinates:
26.180243 -98.364973

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