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As summer winds down, the butterfly finds fewer flowers to sip from and, when the first hard freeze arrives, it is preserved in ice to be discovered the next spring. Such a contrast from the sunny days of summer when this fragile-winged creature flits through fields of flowers completing its life cycle and assuring new generations of butterflies. The revolving wheel of life!

 

In the time of dinosaurs (150 million years ago) there lived the ancestors of the modern butterflies called Lacewings. When the impression of a Lacewing was discovered pressed into stone the finder/scientist cleverly took tiny bits of the stone and ground it up to examine it and determine the color of the eye spot and wings. Here is my imagined re-creation of the lacewing based on his findings along with a  photo of the Red Admiral butterfly currently seen in the Rio Grande Valley.

Recent Paintings

Red and Yellow Honeycreepers

Red and Yellow Honeycreepers

Hawaii was surprisingly forested on the “wet side” of the Big Island.  We hiked into the Forest Reserve hoping to see the Red and Yellow Honeycreepers. With luck and patience we saw them in the tops of the O’hia trees. In order to see the tops of the trees, Carrina hiked into an old crater which over the years had filled in with trees down in the bottom … as you stood on the lip of the crater looking down into it you saw the O’hia tree tops with birds sipping on the O’hia blossoms. This painting reflects my impression of Hawaii.

Desert Orangetip

Desert Orangetip

A continuation of my butterfly paintings inspired by the Desert Orangetip seen at the top of the Sierras … he must be lost as this is not desert but there he was!

Hoary Comma

Hoary Comma

Flitting around the Red Currant bushes was a gorgeous Hoary Comma with his lacy wing edges. He lit … he posed … a click of the camera and I could examine him in detail. Beautiful markings.

Landscape of Stark Choices

Landscape of Stark Choices

A consideration of time is what this painting is about. It is titled “landscape of Stark Choices”. There is a fossil shell and a living butterfly connected by eons of time.

Done!

Done! Finished!  They say only the painter can tell when a painting is finished … well … for me that moment occurs when I am heartily sick of looking at the #*%$* painting.   So here they are.

California Buckeye Tree

California Buckeye Tree

D.L. and I scouted up and down a remote country road in order to find the California Buckeye Tree … pinched off some leaves which were rapidly turning brown and beginning to drop. This native tree has a clever strategy to defeat the dry, dry summer. When the hills become parched in June or July it drops all of its leaves and concentrates of developing its seed pod. The crispy leaves are graham-cracker colored – the seed pods are enclosed in a leathery yellowish covering which splits as the summer progresses and releases the glossy orange/brown seeds. The seeds are spectacular !

Iridescent Beetles

Iridescent Beetles

Painting 2 is a fantasy of the iridescent beetles emerging from a pot … a sort-of still life with drapes and two umbrellas.

Foothill Reeds

Foothill Reeds

Painting 3 is a flowering reed which grows around ponds in the California foothills. In order to see the blossoms you must kneel in the soggy soil and look close … and it must be in the two weeks the reeds put out their peculiar flowers.

O.K. ….Tha … that’s all for now folks! … as my favorite roadrunner says.

 

Privileged – “having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure”. Yes, that describes our trip to the Red Blossom Tea Company.

Teri Kalama, my son’s true love who is newly in his life, offers to take us to Chinatown to meet her college friend Alice who owns a tea company and will conduct a “tea tasting” just for us. I am thrilled … D.L. is doubtful but game for another experience … and we arrive to meet a gracious person who puts black tea and hot water in a teapot to steep … after a few minutes she transfers it from the teapot to another clay container … my Curiosity Imp gives me a poke … “Why did you pour the tea into the second vessel?” I ask.  Alice smiles and says, “Oh this is the ‘fair’ vessel”. This way when there is a tasting the third cup of tea gets the same intensity of tea as the first cup that is poured … it makes all the cups “fair”.

We all look at each other in amazement. Alice then presents us with cups of tea and two pastries. The first contains a combination of gray sesame custard and green tea custard and the second has a golden tangerine custard inside. D.L. balks at the sesame/green tea pastry but tastes the second golden pastry and pronounces it very good. These pastries come from Mr Holmes Bakeshop and are called “cruffins”, a combination croissant and muffin.

We move on to another pale, creamy green tea as Alice explains that her family has owned this shop on Grant Avenue for decades. Her father was a Chinese Apothecary (from the Latin apotheca- “storehouse”) who dispensed herbs and special teas for years to the community. He developed ties to local tea growers in Asia and selected all his own herbs. When Alice took over the shop many of the tea farmers he bought from refused to do business with a woman, so Alice went to the locations and began friendships with her own suppliers. This elegant tea shop is what emerged from all her hard work. As an added treat Alice shows us a video of her five-year old son playing the piano at a recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It was a WOW!

After carefully wrapping my tea purchases she gave me a tea thermos … glass cylinder with a screw top where you put the tea and hot water into the cylinder, put a shallow metal plate on top so the loose tea does not wind up in your mouth,  screw on the lid and replace it in a black bag which fits perfectly to keep the tea warm. Thank you, Alice … we were privileged to meet you … Mary and D.L.

A Yummy Snack

Hairstreak Butterfly

Hairstreak Butterfly

“Many hairstreak butterflies have an elaborate false eye near the edge of their hindwing, often with slender tails that resemble antennae, creating the impression that the back of the insect is in fact the front.”  This quote is from “A Buzz in the Meadow,” a great book by Dave Goulson about the natural history of a French farm.

So is that clever or what? I see many butterflies with bits missing out of their wings where birds and other predators have taken a swipe at them.  In order to confuse the birds further they usually do a swift 180 turn when they land so the bird thinks their protein-rich body is at the opposite end of where it really is … thereby giving the bird a bit of hindwing but preserving the body of the hairstreak. Saved to fly another day!  Imagine how many generations of butterflies it took to evolve those two orange false eyes and the inclination to land with a quick reverse of direction. Apparently eye spots frighten off predators. Certainly they add to the beauty of the butterfly for we who value beauty.

 

The HUISACHE tree is blooming in Texas. Shall I handpick a ton (or 2 or 3) of those small orange flowers and press the oil out of them? These trees have a pleasant, fresh, violet-like smell which drifts on the breeze, tickling your nose and your memories.

First, here is how the Egyptian cultures did it …”Traditional Egyptian practice involves pressing the plant material, then burying it in unglazed ceramic vessels in the desert for a period of months to drive out the water. The water has a smaller molecular size, so it diffuses through the ceramic vessels, while the larger essential oils do not. The lotus oil in Tutankhamen’s tomb, which retained its scent after 3000 years sealed in alabaster vessels, was pressed in this manner.” WIKIPEDIA

In the 1800’s the French perfumers imported Huisache trees and cultivated them in order to extract the oils and use them in perfumes. They devised a method of crushing the flowers with coconut oil or cocoa butter to extract the scent. That is why the oil was priced at $4,400/ kilogram (2.2 pounds). This product was called cassie oil. I invite you to come to Texas and gather a few tons of tiny, fluffy, orange balls and press the oil out of them….or just cover yourself in coconut oil and rub lots of orange flowers on yourself until you achieve the scent you want. You might attract a Crimson patch butterfly. Perhaps you will have a White Peacock butterfly land on you so you do not have to chase this flitter, flitter, fly-away guy around a 100 acre garden in order to photograph him. Anything is possible!