The Illusive Butterfly of Blog


It is one of those mornings for which there seems not to be anything to say that is not too trivial or too ponderous for a blog post with the time I have before getting ready for work.

We got the rain we’ve been hoping for, starting last night, blessing and local curse. Lightning, thunder, and a pacing-panting dog from one side of our bed to the other (not ON the bed, mind you, just bumping up against it frantically) until the storm finally moved out of earshot. The older he gets, the worse he gets about thunderstorms. Oy. How does one change that behavior, I wonder?

Last night was the warmest night we’ve had for a long while, and with the windows open, I needed somewhere between 1/2 and 1 1/2 sheets but rarely just 1 exactly, so I pulled it up and pushed it back all night, hearing the rain on the tin roof, the dog panting, and lots of happy insects and frogs in chorus on the surging creek.

This swallowtail is from the image archives of a couple of weeks ago. Now, the butterfly bush is almost spent, and what swallowtails remain are no where near as perfect as this one, most missing one or both tails, faded, and tired. This is a true sign of impending autumn.

With the rain, we might actually get some wild grapes that are doing better this year than they’ve done in years but were starting to wilt in the ongoing drought. The neighbor offered us some Concords from his vines, but foraging for the wild ones and figuring out how to 1) dislodge them from high in the trees and 2) be able to find them when they fall–usually a matter involving an old bed sheet–makes wild grape gathering a fun fall activity at our house.

Well I guess I’d better save my typing energies for work; those steroid injections I reluctantly took first of the year I confess made a difference, but the effect is most definitely wearing off. I wore the braces on both hands last night, another reason I tossed and turned. Having your hands trussed up in corsets makes for some odd bondage kinds of dreams when too warm in a dripping world with a large dog going bump in the night.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. It’s not uncommon for dogs to become increasingly thunder-phobic as they age. It is a difficult problem to fix, as the noise from the storm is only a part of the equation. Usually desensitizing to the sound of a thunderstorm alone doesn’t help much. Some canine behaviorists are convinced that dogs are also sensing the static charge in the air, and I think that there is some evidence to back that up. Some dogs will do better in locations where they are “grounded”. Many years ago I had a thunder-phobic dog who did much better if I put her in the bathtub during storms, and she would eventually seek out the bathtub on her own when a storm brewed up (which made for fewer puddles of drool to clean up afterwards, too.)

    There is a “Storm Defender Cape” out now that is supposed to help discharge static electricity, and it does seem to help some phobic dogs during thunderstorms, although it looks fairly ridiculous.

    After having had a very thunder phobic dog, I do my best to prevent thunder-phobia from developing in my current dogs – at our house, thunderstorms are when all the best chewies come out. None of my last three dogs have been thunder phobic, but I don’t know if that is due to anything I’ve done, or just dumb luck.

  2. Our dog much prefers to be outdoors in his “shed” (much more exposed to the lightning but away from the wiring in the house?). Unfortunately, we don’t have a bathtub (metal I’m guessing you’re talking about) but maybe we need to go to Blackdog Salvage and purchase a Dog Sanctuary on Clawfeet Castiron Containment Device. I’ll have to take a look at the “cape”–should be good for a blog post at least!

  3. Super Dog! The Caped Canine?

    We had a huge storm last night too – Jay and Mildred huddled in our bedroom but the cat was out in it hunting and brought back a mouse that she ate with great relish just outside our door

    Jay is such a wuss

  4. Since it never thundrs here, or almost never, I’ve got nothing to recommend, but I just wanted to rave about your last sentence. So entertaining. I got a huge kick out of it. Maybe because I’ve worn those things on my wrist for carpal tunnel syndrome. Thanks for the great writing.