I saw what I wanted to see – a beautiful butterfly.
by Linda Behrens
I had the honor recently of spending a summer evening at sunset taking photos of the grounds of Pallottine Renewal Center. While I was waiting for the sun to dip lower in the sky, I wandered back by the garden area by the sculpture of St. Francis along with his prayer inscribed on a large stone. I had previously photographed the property in autumn and spring so I was particularly looking for summer flowers to showcase.
As always, my time there with camera in hand was inspiring. It’s easy to see the big picture – the pond with the cattails, the stations of the cross lining the property, the large cross with its crown of thorns surrounded by nature.
But each time I have photographed the property, I have challenged myself to look for the minute details, the seemingly insignificant touches put there by nature and humans. Small statues, wind chimes and bird houses are sprinkled here and there. The seasonal changes are apparent in the flowers and leaves. And sometimes nature decorates the grounds, like the white and black bird feather lying in the clover I happened to find that summer evening.
So while I walked around the garden area by St. Francis, I noticed a bush with purple flowers. As I got ready to focus in on one of the blooms, a beautiful yellow butterfly alighted on one of the flowers. Wow, I couldn’t have planned that! I started taking shots right away, afraid the butterfly would fly away. Soon I moved closer, then closer again. I could really focus on the insect as it fed on the flower. It was stunning! I had to make myself leave so I could continue walking the grounds.
The evening ended with a beautiful sunset just as the near full moon was rising in the East. I was amazed at how the clouds and moon looked, and I know I took way too many Pallottine steeple shots!
When I looked at my photos the next day, especially the ones of that beautiful yellow butterfly, I realized how in real life we all tend to look at the big picture and not the little details. Even when I thought I was getting close to the butterfly and focusing in on her movements on the flower, I didn’t actually see her flaws. I only saw her beauty, which I basically took for granted. I saw what I wanted to see – a beautiful butterfly.
The camera, however, showed me what I didn’t see – part of her left wing was missing and the edges of both wings were rough. I wonder now if these handicaps affected her ability to fly, to live. In her world, would she be considered ugly or an outcast?
Okay, I know, it’s just an insect. But I didn’t see reality that evening. I saw what I wanted to see. How many times do we overlook reality and perceive things to be the way we want them to be? We put on those “rose-colored glasses” more often than we care to admit.
So the next time you have the opportunity to stop and smell the roses, watch a butterfly or enjoy a summer sunset, take those glasses off and really look. And do this with the people in your lives, your community, your world. Don’t assume or take for granted that everything is perfect.
But most of all, enjoy the beauty that is present – even with its imperfections.
Linda Behrens is a photographer and communications professional. You can see many of her beautiful photos each week on our Facebook page’s #pallottinepictures. Follow us on Facebook.