07 November 2009


many years ago, my first ex and i were co-caretakers at a nature conserancy preserve -- canelo hills cienega. we lived on-site in a two story adobe ranchhouse that was built in 1882. the two-foot thick walls provided wonderful insulation, summer and winter. the cienega itself was a relict habitat, a remnant upland marsh of a type more common a few centuries earlier, before spanish, mexican and american cattlemen overgrazed the grasslands, creating soil erosion and lowering water tables. our cienega had the advantage of yearround water from a spring-fed stream, thus had survived. a reliable source of water is vanishingly rare in souther arizona. such oases are a magnet not only for resident wildlife, but also for migratory birds. we were fortunate to see bird species which summered in the far north, as well as those which wintered in the tropics.

at the time there were three principle conservancy preserves in the region -- canelo, patagonia-sonoita creek, and ramsey canyon. we were good friends with the other caretaker/managers, in particular with the couple who ran the rental cabins and gift shop at ramsey. the man and i shared the same first name, and called each other "ditto". he was a butterfly enthusiast. one year as a birthday gift, his wife asked my ex and me to design and paint a much-enlarged image of one of his favorite butterflies, the california sister, on the spare tire cover for their VW van (the spare tire was mounted in front, so the butterfly would be visible to all). we did so, and the gift was a rousing success. so far as i know, even though they've long since sold that van, they still have the tire cover as a memento of our friendship.

i was reminded of those times, and of my old and dear friends, when i came across this image of an old world swallowtail on wikipedia. here's to lepidopterans, and to good friends across the years.

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