Cosmo Blue

It all began with a blue light in the centre of the fallow field.

Oh, there had been contact before. The first one came disguised as cabbage leaves. The following week one came in zebra stripes.  On the third week our visitor was orange, and covered with indecipherable scribbles in black ink. Each had sailed erratically by our kitchen window, appearing, quite literally, out of the blue, then sputtered, and crash landed on our lavender bush.

We didn’t call the FBI, but we wanted to. The creatures had tubular mouths they could roll out and recoil like garden hoses, globular multi-faceted eyes, radio-receivers ending in flat bulbs like inverted golf-clubs; their slender bodies, sheathed in fur, bore four sails outfitted with millions of light-receptor shingles and fibre optics; and the whole contraption was mounted on multitudinous spike-covered legs pointing all different directions.

Anyhow, I didn’t know the number for the French FBI. 

These door-to-door missionaries (minus the impeccably polished shoes) surprised us, coming one Monday at a time, always at midday in broad sunlight. On the fourth Monday, we were prepared: we organised a camouflage tent, lights and cameras, trip-wires, and metal detectors, notified the radio and the press ... must have scared them off for good, like the sparrows who refuse to come back to our bird-feeder, since we insulted them with offerings of over-ripe Livarot, (even after we replaced the carrion-perfumed cheese with margarine !)

We waited by the peephole for weeks, counting the hours, until it dawned on me: there had to be more Out There.  Maybe thousands, or millions -- ours were just the three that got through. They had come to us, now it was time to go to them.

The field across the street was a tangled jungle of thigh-high weeds, thorny vines, stinging nettles and the occasional barn-cat.  (I almost stepped on one once ... scared both of us half to death; it leapt and practically flew out of there).  So I strapped myself into the camouflage suit, the anti-thorn boots, and the point-and-shoot device with magnification equipment and crossed the street.

Hardly had I touched the perimeter, when I began to see blue lights streaking across the field, going so fast, it was impossible to snap their picture.  And as I waded deeper into the weeds and grasses and wildflowers, all of a sudden, I spied one of them, about six meters ahead, resting on a cornflower, amidst the tangles of green. 

I lit up the camera, and approached, kabuki style, shooting as I went. The colour of his wings changed incessantly according to the angle of light, from cobalt to turquoise to sky blue, to brownish grey and dark purple; just like those plastic lenticular post cards, where the lady is clothed or naked according to how you hold her.

«Take me to your leader» ...

He darted off. I followed, deeper into the field, around the back of an assisted-living house where the field widened into an enormous meadow. A swath of path was ploughed. There, specimens of all sorts were darting about, chasing, turning around each other in the air.

Over the next ninety days, I photographed at least 25 different varieties. At first it seemed it would be impossible to get them to calm down long enough for me to find them in the blasted lens, and focus; but every one had to come to rest eventually. In the morning, before the warmth of the sun got them all jazzed up, they were slower, sometimes allowing me lie down next to them in the thorns, and take hundreds of pictures. 

Once I got a critter to sit calmly on his flower, focussed and centred in the lens, the two of us would work together for a long time. Then I’d get to thinking about the turbaned Weimaraner I saw one New York summer, in a West End Avenue vestibule, all mirrors and marble, being photographed like Marilyn Monroe, in a deluge of flash. The media blitz, focused on a dog... Maybe it was not just any dog. Perhaps he’d saved a girl from drowning. Or belonged to the President. Or was the soul kin and heir to a rice-powdered nonagenarian ...

Lying there amidst the burs and bristles, I’d watch my creature pose. He’d seem to want the publicity, or bask in the attention.  He’d turn graceful pirouettes, show the up and down sides of his wings, his front and back ends. He’d lift his front legs, pawing the air like a rearing horse, or tango in place amongst the stamens, palpating the flower petals, then wrap a front leg around his head to clean his face and antennae, all covered in pollen. 

Then the days grew shorter, and colder, and the greenery blackened, twisted into dragon shapes and death-masks, and the aliens began to leave. A few lingered into November. Then one day, in the meadow, not a soul. 

It was the end of the miraculous summer of butterflies.

Montamisé, dimanche 27 novembre 2011