A Case for the Pallid Swallowtail

by tobias crabtree

Papilio eurymedon, the pallid swallowtail, is an easy favorite with me. Their close relative, the Tiger swallowtail, carries with it the ohs-and-ahs that come from being so bright and large and winged. Butterflies are one of this worlds favorite accents, they have so much within and without. The Pallid swallowtail looks like a Tiger swallowtail that was put in the wash before it’s colors were fully set. There’s a slight hint of soft yellow, while some are more the color of cream. I have always loved them for their discretion, their lesserness. I’m like that, I guess, loving things for being on the quiet side of glorious.

Some nights are tough for me. I wake up and the years look like they cheated and piggy-backed onto me. That’s this morning. Jesus! I know it’s a common theme for aging dudes to write about aging, but I’ll be damned if it don’t look like I slept in a time machine last night and accidentally bumped the forward button. But it’s cool. I’m down. Let’s go.

I was awake at 4:44 a.m. and I thought how that was a nice, round number. Those were my first thoughts, then I thought about my dreams, then I thought about how quiet the world was at 4:44 a.m. on a Wednesday in the industrial area of Bend, Oregon. I rousted my ass up of the pad here at the forge. I slept in one of my favorite indoor venues last night; Orion Forge is Hunter Dahlberg’s creation. His own little baby Frankenstien. My spot here has always been upstairs at the foot of a big home-made bookshelf full of the books that help fill in the secrets behind what makes a person become a Hunter Dahlberg hammer-swinger. Once I decided to give in to the morning, I groped around in the dark for my headlamp. The forge at night is much like a cave and it smells of metal and sweat and coffee-blacker’n-sin. I’m a habitual creature and often move through other peoples’ spaces wearing a headlamp rather that fumble around with unfamiliar light switches that may or may not turn on the needed illumination. Out of my life comes these strangenesses that are just enough to keep me weird and may indeed lead directly to a padded room and a real long sleeve shirt with buckles on the ends of the sleeves that match up with the ones sewn into the back. Should that happen, the plan is to continue to travel on the inside of my head.

This morning I can just barely hear a radio that has been left on. The long heavy bass notes are just enough for me to hear through the pipes and the metal. I have made my way to the door and the sky is showing signs of another day in the making. Bend reminds me a tiny bit of Wyoming, there’s something about the sage and the smell of the hills at dawn. I am hesitant to turn on NPR and listen to news, I’m feeling ok with things this morning and I don’t wanna muck things up by hearing what anyone has done to someone. I know it’s going on, I just ain’t ready to hear it. A kind of chosen stasis until something from without breaks in and I must deal with life as it is. I think I’d prefer to ponder in the half-dark until the outside catches me sneaking around in my bubble of solitude.

I have a buddy that doesn’t really think the moon and the stars affect us humans. He kinda has that “prove it” attitude to which I don’t respond that well. Like when I tell a child to be careful not to fall in the pool, if they don’t believe me, I will not try and prove that they should be careful. I’m fine if they fall in, I’ll get them out, and they might have learned something, and maybe not. Life is a great teacher, but only if you are open to learning. My question is, how can you not know we are affected by this cosmos?! Are you blind? Humans (me included) are ridiculously arrogant and that is usually coupled with a kind of blind ignorance that comes from thinking we are smarter than everything else. Do you see the circle of stupidness? I guess it all depends on what drives you. If you only ever deal with other humans and you spend enough time counting dollars, you might not ever see the moon again, not because she’s gone, but because you never look up.

Here we are, creatures made up of mostly oxygen and then some carbon, we are filled with something called a soul that came out of the cosmos to which it will return, we are moving about between the sky and the dirt and we are thinking because we have this gray mass we call a brain. We are kin to everything. We are under a yellow sun that is the source of our lives. There is everything we can imagine and all the things we can’t imagine, happening here and between the stars that go out into a distance that we simply cannot comprehend. And here in our world, there are bright, yellow Tiger swallowtails, and quietly floating on some secret draft between the wild lilacs is the lesser known, softer-colored, Pallid. And she too is perfect, waiting for the moon and the sun to tell her what time it is…waiting to be affected.

If our minds and hearts are open in this life, death will not be a dread, it will be a step into the cosmos.