Butterflies in the ground

25 August, 2019            Butterflies in the ground

Monarch butterfly caterpillar in our front bed this morning:

Evelyn saw a bare patch of ground in front of our house and imagined a Monarch butterfly. She planted a plant. Flowers bloomed. A monarch butterfly stopped on the flowers. It drank nectar and laid eggs because it was such a great spot. The eggs hatched and this morning there were caterpillars. Which will become butterflies. As long as the world keeps turning. 

Speaking of the world turning, I had a birthday Friday. I did a triathlon the following (yesterday) morning in Quantico, VA. They tattoo (a sticker that stays on for ~a week) your age on your calf so we know one another’s age when we’re passing or being passed. Both happened to me many times. Here’s what my fellow athletes saw. I took this picture this morning at the river: 

I was still 57 on Thursday. But Friday I earned this tattoo (my age) for the race.

They draped this around my neck when I crossed the finish line two hours, ten minutes and forty one seconds after I started: 

Finisher’s medal (front)

Finisher’s medal (back)

We swam 750 meters (half a mile) in the Potomac River, then rode our bikes 20 kilometers (~12.4 miles) around the base. We finished with a wooded 5k (3.1 mile) run on the physical fitness course. 

After thirty plus years as a triathlete, I enjoyed this one as much as – probably more than – my first one. Three minutes before my wave went out (the blue wave, we wore blue swim caps, the third wave) I spoke to a young triathlete as we watched the second wave of  swimmers churn south down the muddy river. My first words were “How are you feeling?” His instant, reflexive response: “Lucky.” I loved it. I’ve asked that question countless times over the years. The response is always some variety of mild anxiety or concern. I felt lucky to hear a person express gratitude. I was glad I wasn’t the only one. 

This week instead of my normal picture of a Red-tailed hawk’s head and body, I’ll include the talons of a big female I saw at Westhampton Memorial and Cremation Park Monday morning at 9:30: 

Talons of a big, confident female Red-tailed hawk

Plus I saw a pretty female Tiger Swallowtail at Pony Pasture this morning: 

Lovely female Tiger Swallowtail at Pony Pasture this morning.

Mackey had been under the weather for a few days – lethargy and loss of appetite. In technical veterinary terminology that’s referred to as “ADR,” short for “Ain’t Doin’ Right.” It came on without warning and Mackey is not young so we were anxious to get him to the vet. But it was late Thursday night and I was leaving the next day for the race. We left a late night message for our vet – Springfield Veterinary Center – and they squeezed us in at 10:30 Friday morning. Dr. Kara Kolster, DVM saw Mackey and spent time with him and Evelyn and me and Turner (Mackey’s own personal Therapy Dog). She diagnosed (correctly) what was ailing him and fixed him right up. Here he is at Pony Pasture this morning with his buddy: 

That’s what two healthy dogs look like. Turner left, Mackey right.

Speaking of Pony Pasture, a friend recently asked how big pawpaws are. They’re the size of an Idaho baking potato. And their skin is a pale, gentle, almost translucent shade of green. I described the skin in last week’s blog post as so soft that it was possible “a falling chickadee feather would poke a hole in it.” I’ve also (because of that soft skin) often said that a pawpaw is perfectly ripe between the time it falls from a branch and the time it hits the ground. If you’re fortunate enough to be standing under a pawpaw tree with your catcher’s mitt at that precise instant, you’re in for a real treat. I would imagine. I’ve always been too late and had to pick them up off the ground and eat them. They are fantastic then. Here’s one I saw this morning, shortly after I took a bite, with car keys for scale. It was between 45 and 90 minutes overripe, so it was a tiny bit sweeter and softer than perfection, but only a tiny bit: 

Pawpaw with car keys “for scale” and a bite taken out so I can say “OMG” with complete authority

Have a great week! Come back next week! 

All best, 


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), triathlons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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