Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bright, pretty flecks – An addendum to "101 Swaziland destinations - #5"

I was worn out from the continuing ascent from the valley, and my body was on the verge of mutiny as my brain’s metronome-like Coxswain stubbornly shouted, "pedal!…pedal!…pedal!"

I was beginning to wonder how much a used mountain bike would sell for in Swaziland.

When I turned the corner, there were about twenty of them. They were flecks of vivid highlighter-yellow and they were strewn about the path in front of me like confetti. Until they took flight, I would have guessed that they were careless litter, perhaps a shattered plastic bottle.

(How butterflies fly at all is a mystery to me. They seem to have too much wing and not enough chassis, as if they were designed to simply be blown about by the wind, like a tiny, poorly outfitted, crewless sailboat…or a dry leaf.)

I came to a stop a few meters from them, and they rose into the air, swarming.

In most cases, I want nothing to do with swarms of anything.

A swarm of fluttering yellow butterflies, it turns out, is remarkably unthreatening.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing drought’s drab, merciless earth tones, the swarm provided a marvelous distraction, a respite for the two large overcooked lasagna noodles that had only recently been my legs.

The pretty bugs gave my brain something to do besides taunt my body.

While the butterflies’ formation was more haphazard than that of, say, migrating geese, there was definitely an intricate order to it. The clustered flight paths reminded me of those tedious informational cartoons we were shown in general chemistry class that were intended to teach us how electrons encircle an atom’s nucleus.

In other words, they swarmed spherically, as if they were frantically rolling an invisible ball of weightless yarn.

I watched them float about until I had caught my breath and then told myself that, if these disproportionate, dusty-winged insects could so effortlessly fill the air in front of me with bits of precisely-woven color, I could force my worn-out legs to pedal a bit further.

So I did, and eventually made it up the seemingly interminable hill.

I must admit that there are times when having wings or a lighter-weight frame would come in handy.


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