Host of Butterflies

July 17, 2018


Once I taught a class on the Psalms. When my class discovered not all the Psalms are expressions of praise and thanksgiving, some were surprised. You mean a psalm can be a howl of outrage? Why yes, my dears, it can. You mean we can come to God with all our feelings, not just our ‘acceptable’ feelings? Why yes, my dears, we can. Perhaps we churchly people should put less energy into respectability and more into honest angry weeping in the arms of the One who understands. Then and only then… ‘hallelujah anyway!’  Light, properly shadowed.


Having aired that, I offer a psalm of deep gratitude for being alive:


A Host of Butterflies


In a flower bed, at the foot of a crape myrtle,

stands a shrub with an interesting name: Duranta repens.


This dazzling creature is dressed, at the moment, in rich green.

And she is graced with masses of the most exquisite flowers—

deep purple, edged in white.

The brightness of her beauty draws me close.


I’m not the only one.


As I approach, what should I see on Duranta but a host of butterflies.

Five monarchs, regal in orange and black,

wings opening and closing in ecstasy.

Two clouded sulphurs, radiant in yellow.

And several small, unidentified Lepidoptera: brown, with touches of red.


How close can I get without disturbing them?

Soon I’m practically standing in Duranta.

All around me the exuberant nectar-feasting continues.

I can hear the rustle of their wings.


Well, this is almost too much joy.

Feeling I’ve trespassed on holy ground,

I step back onto the grass,

from whence I continue to drink in this gorgeous picture,

all the cares and concerns in my heart and mind

warmed and softened

under God’s good sunshine.


Yes, it’s almost too much miracle.   So I retreat another step.


O, Love that will not let me go …


Two of the monarchs detach from the feast, flutter to me,

spiral down my body and back up again,

brushing my skin and my clothes with their wings.


Maybe it’s my Black Orchid perfume.

Maybe they think I’m a flower. I don’t know.

But I feel loved. Deeply loved.

As if I’m a cherished part of an unfolding plan…


-photo by Kate Hambright, May 2018






Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

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