Saturday, March 9, 2013


I’ve been reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. I was probably attracted to the book by its title, given that I am struggling to accurately describe the unique method of flying that my main characters use.

Kingsolver gave me no help, there. But she did remind me that butterflies exist. I had been thinking about them for some time. The sky of my anjel world seemed a little barren to me. In this stage of the draft there are only a couple types of waterfowl and one kind of scavenger bird that share the air with anjels. I have now started to write in something like butterflies and a cleaning bird.

We think of butterflies as beautiful pollinators, when we think about them at all. I thought there might be a role for them as scavengers. I Googled scavenger butterflies and was not surprised to find several recent references to this type of behavior on the planet we call Earth.

So, now I’m having some fun playing beauty against disgust. We tend not to admire our scavengers. Think of vultures and hyenas. Yet, they do perhaps the most necessary job on the planet. In the American West, where I live, one of the most common scavengers we encounter is the magpie. I have never understood why they are so reviled. They are gorgeous, intelligent birds, just going about their business.

Does scavenging play a large role in how we see magpies? Bald eagles are scavengers, too, but we tend to think of them as noble creatures. Maybe magpies are downgraded because we see them doing their work on the side of the road. Eagles are not typically so bold. Besides, they prefer fish, a critter that only rarely succumbs to passing autos. 

Butterflies, or their anjel planet analog, have the advantage of hiding their scavenging work with their delicate selves. Their colorful swarms are much easier to look at than the carcasses they cover. Death is always just behind the curtain, but it is easier to take if the curtain is beautiful.

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