Butterflies, Fireflies and Fleeting Ideas

The stationary white speck stood out against the hemlock’s deep green. Even with my handy-dandy birdwatching binoculars I couldn’t quite tell what it was – a cherry blossom tossed there by the wind? Perhaps a feather having drifted from a nearby nest? Curiosity brought me back to the window several times but I couldn’t identify it.


Then suddenly it was gone.  I scanned the lawn beneath the tree to no avail until a fluttering bit of white in the nearby garden caught my attention. I discovered what I assume was an early Cabbage White moth flitting among the violets.  As I watched I was reminded of a passage from Jane Yolen’s book, “Take Joy”:


“A writer is someone who begins

by trying to catch insights

as fireflies in a jar

but in the end

needs to see them

pinned to the page.”


While the pinning part of the analogy is a bit gruesome, it vividly portrays a writer’s efforts to capture fleeting ideas.


Remembering that someone once said success occurs when opportunity meets preparation, I like to be ready whenever inspiration strikes. In place of a bottle or butterfly net, however, I frantically reach for my ever-present notebook because momentary fragments of brilliance rarely sit on a branch long enough for me to examine them.


Now might also be a good time for me to look in my sewing basket for a few pins.



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

4 thoughts on “Butterflies, Fireflies and Fleeting Ideas

  1. Hi Careann – Your timing with this post is killin’ me. I was in the middle of a story idea today (at 80 mph on the highway – I have a very long drive) that was so vivid, I’m surprised I didn’t end up in a ditch. My thoughts were interrupted by a phone call &, while I still have the jist of the story in my brain, some of the ‘good parts’ were left behind on I-95. Maybe I’ll start carrying a small tape recorder – I guess they still make ’em. A notebook might be dangerous at that speed. Sleep will be impossible tonight with that story dangling around out there.

    I’ll post some of Deb’s butterfly shots in the future. Her latest craze? Hummingbirds. (They make me dizzy.) Have a great night. DE

  2. Yes indeed, a tape recorder would be much better than a notebook at that speed! I can just imagine those great inspirations lining the edge of the I-95. Hope you’re able to reconstruct the best of them.

    We don’t have a lot of butterflies, but there’s a steady stream of hummingbirds at our feeder. They’re the Rufous Hummingbirds but my camera isn’t sophisticated enough to capture a good shot of them. I’d love to see Deb’s.

  3. “momentary fragments of brilliance rarely sit on a branch long enough for me to examine them” — I know what you mean! And so I’ve always got my notebook with me, too.

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