Postcard #6 from Costa Rica: Mariposas

And to me also, who appreciate life, the butterflies, and soap bubbles, and whatever is like them amongst us, seem most to enjoy happiness.

Friedrich Nietzsche
And to me also, who appreciate life, the butterflies, and soap bubbles, and whatever is like them amongst us, seem most to enjoy happiness. Friedrich Nietzsche

Mariposa: poetry in a single word. Better than butterfly?

A paradise for butterflies, Costa Rica has 1,200 individual species, ten percent of the world’s mariposa population. Throughout the country butterflies are a kaleidoscope of colour, petal wings nectaring in blossoms.

A butterfly’s life cycle is a natural source of poetic inspiration—egg to imago (adult) in forty-eight weeks, imago to death sometimes a mere three days. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly,” wrote an anonymous poet. Since April is Poetry Month, we have paired photos of the delicate beauty of butterflies with the lyrical imagery of poets. After all, as Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”

At times their wings are folded
like the covers
of a book

that opens suddenly
and comes to life
with language.

Linda Pastan

Listen to the butterfly
Whose days but number three
Listen to the butterfly
Don’t listen to me.

Leonard Cohen

The butterfly’s out on noon patrol,
Dragoning down to the rapt flower heads.

Charles Wright

For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,

and vanished
into the world.

Mary Oliver

So it happens that I am and look.
Above me a white butterfly is fluttering through the air
On wings that are its alone
And a shadow skims through my hands
That is none other, no one else’s, but its own

When I see such things I’m no longer sure
that what’s important
is more important than what’s not.

Wistawa Szymborska

Winged blossom, Nature’s freeman

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

April’s air stirs in
Willow-leaves…a butterfly
Floats and balances


If I were a lepidopterist
And you were a butterfly
The rarest of all Wood Nymphs
Could safely pass me by.
Beguiling Painted Ladies
Might lovely wings unfold
And I should still regard them
With eyes distinctly cold.
Les Admirals and Monarchs,
Such negligence regret,
Alone for you, my dearest,
Where spread my eager net.

George S. Hellman

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your
grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The people of this world are like the three butterflies in front of a candle’s flame.
The first one went closer and said: I know about love.
The second one touched the flame lightly with his wings and said:
I know how love’s fire can burn.
The third one threw himself into the heart of the flame and was consumed.
He alone knows what true love is.


Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have
sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”

Hans Christian Anderson

I’ve watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!—not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!

William Wordsworth

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

Rabindranath Tagore

The fritillary,
Fickle, wary,
Flies from plant to plant with nary
A forethought as to where he
Alights, a butterfly.

John Updike

Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.

R.H. Heinlein

The butterfly’s attractiveness derives not only from colors and
symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it. We would not think them so
beautiful if they did not fly, or if they flew straight and briskly like
bees, or if they stung, or above all if they did not enact the
perturbing mystery of metamorphosis: the latter assumes in our eyes the
value of a badly decoded message, a symbol, a sign.

Primo Levi

Above life’s chaos
A Butterfly flaps its wings
Everything changes



Update: Langer, Emily. “Linda Pastan, poet of concentrated beauty, dies at 90.” Washington Post, February 1, 2023.

In Costa Rica, there are three places we visited to see butterflies. The Butterfly Observatory in El Castillo, near the Arenal volcano  is an education and research center that hosts the largest butterfly exhibit in the country. The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens one-hour guided tour is led by a highly knowledgable guide (ours was Nea, from Wales). During this hour, you will explore four different gardens where you will learn all about butterflies and bugs in Costa Rica. Lastly, you’ll find butterflies in the great outdoors all throughout the country.

On Thursday, April 30, 2020, celebrate the 4th annual Poem in Your Pocket Day across Canada. The day encourages people to select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. Find out more at 

10 Responses

  1. Ah Yes, on Gossamer wings, I await their return.
    My only memory is currently lost in symmetry, that being the snowshoes upon the wall, alas this may seem cruel, yet the white in my world is snow, sadly not sand that awaits the spring sun and wind below the drifts of time called winter have yet to depart our world.

    I know not a soul that can resist a smile when seeing the winged wonders.

    Great story, greater timing, most awesome pictures, PERFECT.


    1. Magellan says your response is “Northern Saskatchewan haiku.” Brilliant. especially the visual symmetry you drew between of a pair of snowshoes and the “gossamer winged wonders.”

  2. This post is beyond beautiful and the poems are so perfectly aligned with the amazing array of butterflies you captured! Thank you, as always, for the uplifting perspectives!


    1. To one with a special fondness for butterflies, thank you. Here’s another poem that didn’t make the post:
      “It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How
      else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment.”

      Vita Sackville-West

  3. WOW … could not be more apropos!! The pairing of the poetry and the images is just … well, it’s just PERFECT. I also am no longer sure that what’s important is more important than what’s not. Today I am going out looking for butterflies! LOVE this blog! 🙂

    1. Joyed our day you did Kim; TY. For added pleasure search out the Polish author Wistawa Szymborska, whose poetry we discovered thanks to this blog and our friend Jolanta.

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