Yesterday in the garden where I’ve spent hours each day for the last week or so, amidst rosebush and spirea and a gnarled apricot tree and lavender shooting up its spires like the hands of elementary school kids who all know the answer, I drifted over to a butterfly bush that, even though it was at the hottest hour of the day, was still flitted about by probably fifty or so moths and butterflies, the dusty white ones whose wings let the light pass through, the wheat-colored ones the rims of whose wings looked like a piano’s insides, each of them landing briefly, dipping into the nectar their imperceptible probisci, teetering on their filamental legs straddling the bloom, which, when you are as close to it as I am, you recognize is actually several hundred blooms on every flower, little purple trumpets inside of which is a luminous gold navel. I’m guessing that was what the butterflies, and, as I sat still, the tiny bees hovering stoned, and even the honeybees loading up their sacks, were sipping from.
I was holding the stalk between my forefinger and thumb, pulling it to my face where I breathed in the fragrance of the butterfly bush—and breathed it in deeper, my friend points out to me, by making a kissy-face and closing my eyes—one of the undervalorized scents (and sights) of the garden. Maybe it’s because the butterfly bush has naturalized, and you can find it on roadsides or scrubby fields, even at the edges of some abandoned woods like the ones behind the apartments I grew up in, washing machines and skunk cabbage and a creek bloomed with rust—it has lost some of the preciousness of, say, this statuesque rose bush, probably an antique, which, though beautiful, curling its velvety, variegated blooms, the tightly wrapped pinkish orange unfurling into petals with an almost indiscernible stippling on the undersides, and with a sophisticated, subtle fragrance to boot (even the beetle crawling through it seems to be wearing a monacle), doesn’t really hold a candle to the butterfly bush.
And as I dip my face into it again and again, not unlike those butterflies with their probisci, seeing again and again those golden eyes within the conical flowers, I notice a glimmering just to my left. The shimmer goes in and out of view as I move my head back and forth, until it’s clear it’s one long strand of a web reaching the fifteen feet or more across the path into a little thicket of figs, almost invisible except for the light here and there, depending on the looking, lying across it, making it shine, here and there, depending on the looking, invisible except for the light.