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.