Lepidoptera Life

“How does one become butterfly?’ Pooh asked pensively. ‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar,’ Piglet replied.“

– A. A. Milne


Rain, rain, go away. Does anyone else here feel this way?

I can’t remember a fall in North Texas, in recent years, that has been this wet. We finally got a break today for several hours, not really sunny hours, but at least hours without water. If I was grabbing my camera and dashing out for a break, so were all the insects, gathering as much pollen and nectar as insectly possible before the down-pours of evening hit again.

Before I actually realized I should make a break for it, I happened to look out the window with baby A. E. at the pollinator garden. She exclaimed, “Buddafly! I touch it!” And there they were…Monarchs everywhere! We easily counted eight just outside the window alone. I knew as soon as naptime rolled around that I had to get outside. You see, if you remember from my very first post on this blog, J. and I participate in Monarch Watch by tagging butterflies each fall. Last year we tagged twenty-five, but these were all hatched from caterpillars we collected off of Milkweed in our garden. This year it’s a different story. Our Milkweed has not been prolific enough to support caterpillars, so, at present, we are forced to try and tag wild butterflies passing through. Sometimes this can be difficult and then sometimes it can actually be easy.

On a day like today, where a break from rain is a blessing for everyone, the butterflies are willing to sit for longer periods of time to nectar. In those cases, you simply come up behind a butterfly with its wings closed and gently pinch the wings together. Then with your other hand you take a small sticker, that has already been pre-placed on the end of a toothpick, and roll it onto the central section of the hindwing. Then you slide your pinching hand down a bit and just press the hindwings together to make sure the sticker is secure. Let go, and the Monarch then continues on its merry way.

I reviewed the 2017 tagging data today from Monarch Watch to see if any of our butterflies from last year had been located in either Mexico or other parts of the United States and Canada. Sadly, none of our numbers were retrieved. But there’s always this year, and we’re trying to double our chances by tagging fifty! So far, we are at nine. If this rain keeps up, my hopes might be dashed in reaching our goal. We’ll just have to wait out the storms and see. That’s half of life, isn’t it? The “wait and see.”

In any event, one thing was crystal clear today…with the Monarchs came a plethora of Lepidoptera. There were seemingly butterflies and moths and caterpillars invading all corners of our space. It was spectacular! I couldn’t look in any direction without seeing a flit or a float. So, in honor of the Monarch and all the flutter of fall activity, I have chosen my seven favorite butterfly and moth photos from today for my photography week in review.

I guess you could really call this a week in review in a day! Hopefully next week will open up greater artistic opportunities, but this post does go to show that you can capture some pretty amazing things in a very short period of time. In fact, while someone else takes a nap, you can literally take in the world.


All the best,

A. J.


“Orange Blossom Special” (Female Monarch nectars on Cosmos)


“Who Are You?” (Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar enjoying a little hookah, or is that fennel?)


“Winged Dali” (Armyworm Moth on Cosmos)


“One Piece of Chocolate Cake, One Ice Cream Cone, One Pickle” (Cross-striped Cabbageworm devours a Brassica)


“Victoria’s Secret” (Catocala (“Underwing”) Moth nectars on Black Knight Butterfly Bush)


“The Whole World Smiles with You” (Hawaiian Beet Webworm Moth relaxes with a grin on Frostweed)


“Have Passport, Will Travel” (Female Monarch tagged and fueling up for the journey)


Life After the Storm

”Every storm runs, runs out of rain, just like every dark night turns into day.”

– Gary Allan


About this time last week I assumed our next step would be to build an ark. North Texas was absolutely pummeled with rain for days. And days. And even more days, it seemed. I have a hard time remembering a recent period in our weather history with more continuous rain than that. The showers sequestered sorrowful students indoors at the school where I volunteer as garden coordinator, and our home garden just sat, leaves and petals slouching under the weight of water. It’s no surprise, then, when “enough blue in the sky for a Dutchman’s britches” (as J.’s grandmother would have said) finally stuck its bottom through the clouds, that we all feverishly ran outside to check on life.

I think my camera might have actually gathered a little dust during the storm, but throwing that strap over my head this week was like riding a bike…I didn’t forget. And WOW was life alive! The temperatures had shifted from the sweat of summer to a pleasantly cool warm, and EVERYone sought to enjoy it. Newly hatched butterflies flitted and floated everywhere I walked. Bees began gathering their preparatory pollen for winter. Even a litter of bunnies emerged from a mulch hole in the school playground (much to the dismay of our Brassicas).

As I stepped outside this week and could finally inhale a long and deliberate gulp of fresh air, I thought about the storms we all go through in life. I happen to be braving some storms with a few friends right now. I’m like their umbrella holder. The rain is a torrential sideways downpour at the moment for them, with absolutely no hope of staying dry, but at least I can help by shielding a little water from their faces. Inevitably, though, just like a thunderstorm ends so does a life storm. They’ll weather the storm. We all weather our storms. And amazingly, somehow, all of the colors come out in the wash twice as bright as they were before…just like a cutting garden after a hard rain. The bees buzz, the buds bloom and life begins anew.

So if you are braving a storm right now, just know that it WILL run out of rain. You’ll likely get wet (hell it might actually flood up to your neck), but at some point the waters will subside. And I guarantee you that eventually, when the sound of splatters finally silence on your back, your umbrella will tilt just enough to let in a glimpse of blue, and you’ll shake hands with the Dutchman. Man…won’t it be great to finally greet him.


May you enjoy my seven favorite photos from this week of life, witnessed after the storm.


All the best,

A. J.


Spread My Wings (Gulf Fritillary on a bedazzled path)


A Slipping Down Life (Snail hangs from the end of a Passion Vine)


Emergence (The first Goldenrod crown begins to open)


Outsmarting McGregor (Tiny bunny hides within a cavern of vines)


Nectar of the Gods (Hummingbird sips from a Turk’s Cap)


Face Plant (Male Southern Carpenter Bee embracing Indigo Spires)


God Bless Us, Everyone (Tiny Ceratina Bee balances on a Goldenrod bloom)


Sweet Harvest (Rain or shine…a life’s work finally comes to fruition)




Thirty Something

“If we love Flowers, are we not ‘born again’ every Day…”

– Emily Dickinson, Letter 1037


As I sat down this weekend to piece together my latest photo compilation, I could not believe that thirty something days had passed since the last Week in Review. My…how time flies! And, let me tell you, it’s quite the anthology of uploads to sift through when you have a month’s worth of photography. I will try exceedingly hard not to do THAT again anytime soon.

I began this month’s shoot on Mother’s Day when I took about an hour to myself to walk through a meadow near White Rock Lake, close to my home. Walking in a field, or a meadow, or a forest, or even my own familiar gardens is nothing short of poetry for the senses to me, and, with each step, I am refreshed, renewed and somehow reborn.

Today, I desire this post to be less about words and more about the visual life story of nature. Honestly, as I scrolled through some of the amazing captures this month, and selected my top 30 images, I felt at a loss for adequate words. It reminded me of Dickinson when she wrote, “Nature is what we know, yet have no art to say.” As you walk through my monthly outdoor journey, simply feel it’s story through color, texture, light, depth, detail.

Truth is…Mother Nature really needs no words to make her point.


All the best,


“Nature” is what we see —
The Hill — the Afternoon —
Squirrel — Eclipse — the Bumble bee —
Nay — Nature is Heaven —
Nature is what we hear —
The Bobolink — the Sea —
Thunder — the Cricket —
Nay — Nature is Harmony —
Nature is what we know —
Yet have no art to say —
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

– Emily Dickinson


“The Tree Stands Alone” (Queen Anne’s Lace meadow near White Rock Lake)


“Lady Luck” (Seven-spotted Lady Beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace)


“Peek-a-Boo” (Gray Hairstreak on Green Milkweed)


“The Stroke of Midnight” (Queen Anne’s Lace bloom ending)


“Good Evening” (Purple Nightshade at dusk)


“Fierce Beauty” (Milk Thistle begins to open)


“Flying Solo” (Clasping Coneflower blows in the breeze)


“With the Sun at My Back” (Milk Thistle in full bloom at sunset)


“Make a Wish” (Salsify “puffball” seedbed)


“Load On My Back” (Female Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)


“Oh, Sweet Nectar” (Pseudodynerus Mason Wasp on Tickseed)


“And…We Have Lift Off” (Honey Bee with pollen cargo from Texas Primrose)


“Too Hot for Leg Warmers” (Two-spotted Longhorn Bee on Coneflower)


“This Round’s On Me” (Two Honey Bees at the Butterfly Weed Bar)


“They Call Me Mellow Yellow” (Male Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)


“Taking an Evening Stroll” (Blue Mint Leaf Beetle on Spearmint)


“Look into the Reds of My Eyes” (Immature Giant Leaf-footed Bug on Boxwood)


“How YOU Doin’?” (Male Green Anole Lizard getting his flirt on)


“Hey, Hey…the Gang’s all Here!” (Colony of ants on parsley bloom)


“On the Move” (Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ready for chrysalis)


“If You Give ‘Em an Inch…” (Looper caterpillar on Clasping Coneflower)



“Blue on Black” (Female Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring before laying)


“In the Beginning…” (Female Gulf Fritillary having just laid an egg)


“Winged Tapestry” (The beauty of the Common Buckeye)


“Pure Gold” (California Poppy)


“On Pins and Needles” (Pincusion Flower)


“Remains of the Dove” (Safflower sprouts under bird feeder)


“If the Shoe Fits” (Lady Slipper Balsam Flower)


“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (Sunflower after a sprinkle)


“Overtaking the Path” (When whimsical wins)

In Case You Haven’t Noticed

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”

– Diane Arbus


Almost a year ago I read a quote by author and filmmaker Michael Crichton. He said, “The more you watch, the more mysterious the natural world becomes, and the more you realize how little you know.” I read this quote on the heels of our first full spring with a pollinator garden and had seen, first hand, the truth of his statement. “Amazing” is not even an appropriate word to describe our natural world. There were things going on in my own back yard, a year ago, that dumbfounded me every day. I remember telling J., “Just think about all of the things people are missing because they simply don’t watch for them.” In all fairness, though, some of the amazement happens on such a microscopic level that it is virtually impossible to catch without the right equipment. Hello macro lens…my new love.

I found myself pulled in many directions, yet again, last week (hence this Week in Review post on a Monday, instead of the weekend), but I did at least have time to get out on a few breaks in my own garden and immerse myself in the small. The small, you guys, is astounding! When I am privy to witness something like individual hairs on a dragonfly, it is almost as if I am in sacramental communion with nature. I have no doubt that it is highly unlikely that anyone else on the planet will experience exactly what I have captured in exactly the very same way. In that sense, the camera lens creates snowflakes, and, within that individuality, I feel special, the moment is prized, the world has meaning. But, at the same time, I am truly humbled by just how vast that world is and, in its vastness, how little I do know.

Being the giver in nature that I am, though, I really don’t want to keep those moments bottled up all to myself. I want to be a part of weaving something incredible into the everyday life of those around me. The needle is not meant to remain in the pincushion, you know. Just like the images I share today, we are all conceived, we develop, we work, we consume, we show our own personal flair here and there, but eventually we all do die, going back to the natural earth from whence we emerged. It’s the small threads that we weave throughout all of those basic “life components” that make this life a beautiful fabric worth wrapping around ourselves. It’s honestly the “small” that makes life big and rich and fulfilling.

So, I encourage you to notice the small, to do the small, to even sometimes BE the small. But, in case you’ve got big things planned and you can’t get to that today, I’m bringing the small to you. I’d wager a bet that most of you have never seen many of the occurrences below. Well, we’re about to change that. Welcome to the confoundingly mysterious world in which you live. I’m thrilled to help you see it!


All the best,

A. J.


“Hanging on by a Thread” (Lacewing eggs dangle in the breeze)


“Attaboy, Clarence” (Eastern Black Swallowtail, in chrysalis, gets his wings)


“Sure Could Use a Shovel” (Lasioglossum Bee peeks out while drilling his tunnel)


“Sippin’ Lemonade” (Cocklebur Weevil drains the juice of a Coreopsis stem)


“Shake Your Tail Feathers” (Gray Hairstreak butterfly goes bottoms-up)


“Afternoon Snack” (Paper Wasp consumes the remaining beetle flesh)


“Steak Dinner” (Dragonfly shows his carnivorous side)




To Sweat or To Sit

”I’ve found [photography] has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

– Elliott Erwitt


If you read my post a week ago, you know that I’m starting a Week in Review of fluffy” photos on this blog to give us all just a little something to mindlessly enjoy. Mind you, though, I DID do some actual work this week on the blog. If you haven’t checked out the start of my first identification gallery, you should do that after you read this, especially if you happen to share my fascination with butterflies. But back to this.

When I sat down to pick out my seven favorite photos from this week, I began to see all of the images come together for more than just face value of the subject matter. I began to see them in such a way that they told a story…a story about me…really a story about all of us.

I work a lot. My husband J. calls me a bee. Funny that the bee would now be raising bees in her very own back yard. (Sort of reminds me of that kindergarten teacher sweater that sports bears wearing sweaters that have bears wearing sweaters on them. Where does one bee or bear begin and the other one end?) But back again to this. I’m really not unlike any of you. We all work. We all work a lot. I think what sets some of us workers apart from other workers, though, is an ability to turn off the work switch and flip on the play switch…or, even more delicious, to shut it all down and just be, not bee. Be slow. Be easy. Be centered. Be grounded. For all that is holy and pure…be present. Allow yourself some moments throughout the week where time doesn’t matter. Shocking concept, right? That time shouldn’t always MATTER. If you aren’t doing this religiously, before too long you’ll find yourself flat on your back at the bottom of the hive…DEAD. And, as my bestie Jilly W. reminded me this week, the Monty Python cart master of an undertaker will come along calling, “Bring out your dead,” and your friends and family will just have to carry you out and toss you onto the passing cart.

I had this feeling while walking this week. I glanced under my neighbor’s arbor and spotted an old periwinkle clam-shell chair, sitting amidst spindly stalks of purple Penstemon, and I got this feeling I couldn’t quite place. In my heart of hearts, though, it soothed me. Something about that chair equated to everything that is right in this world. It wasn’t until my friend D. D. commented on the photo and said, “Makes me think of my Grandpa,” that I could set into words why that chair seemed to quell every bit of noise within my soul. If you’ve ever had a Grandpa, nothing about him is busy. The closest you’ll get to “busy” with a Grandpa is more akin to the word “putter,” and that’s what makes him perfect. Grandpas always seem to have time. I know mine did. I have very real, very clear images of him just sitting. Sitting and tapping his foot. Now tell me, who do you know in your life right now that you can clearly imagine just sitting? I bet you’re hard-pressed to name one single individual. That was how the chair unfolded for me. It spoke to me and said, ”At some point every week your story should end up with you as a Grandpa, even for just a few moments.” I can start out busy, sweat on my brow as I bustle here and there, packing everything I can into a day, but in the end, dang it, I absolutely should cool off, take a few long sips, maybe of some wine, and just sit in a chair and be, not bee.

The story is all right here in my seven favorite photos for the week. It’s my story. It could be yours too, if you let it.


All you have to do is pull up a chair.


All the best,

A. J.


“Dive Right In” (Metallic green Sweat Bee working the Coreopsis)


“Just Keep Moving” (Honeybee workers carry pollen into the hive and fly right back out)


“Pack it All In” (Honeybees packing different colors of pollen into the comb)


“The Cool-Down” (Blue Borage bathes in the sprinkler)


“Take a Long Sip” (Four-lined Bug sucks juice from a leaf)


“One Glass or Two?” (Nothing quite as delectable as the perfect Winecup)


“Just Be” (Enough said)

From Pigeons to Poppies

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.”

– Destin Sparks


Where did March and April go? The past two months have been crazy in the Schulz household!!! My day job is real estate, so just as spring starts to lift off the down covers of winter and stick one toe out on the cold, early March floor, I’m diving head-long into the lap pool of work. Couple that with spring break vacation and, suddenly, a lot of balls are in the air. Over the past eight weeks, however (while I was obviously NOT writing), I still made time with J. to get the vegetable rows seeded, the pollinator garden cleaned up and ready for its impending glory and the first hive in our backyard apiary occupied (more to come on that little venture later). AND…I have SO much to talk about. Honestly, so many things have happened in my outdoor world that I could have content to write about for months! But I’m finding in this blog, career, mom, wife, volunteer world that I co-exist in with my six other selves that the “blog” part is tough to balance. Actually, it’s all tough to balance.

As I’ve wrestled with the right purpose and focus for this blog, I’ve also been working to flesh out how my true passions can be of benefit to others. I have some good ideas about big, meaty content, periodically, but I’m looking to couple that with smaller, quick tidbits that I can easily share with you throughout the week. I’m embracing this concept from blogger friend Jill Elliott over at The Someday Project. When Jill and I chatted, we talked about how everyone appreciates serious substance from time to time, but we all also need ideas and tips that we can grab on to and run with, without a lot of effort.

Even so, I’m additionally keenly aware that sometimes we just want to bring it all down even one level further to what I call the “fluff zone.” On Wednesday of this week I quipped on Facebook® that, after a tough day, I sometimes just need some solid television binging. This week, it happened to be Sneaky Pete. Loving it, by the way. But in my outdoor world, the absolute, no question, nothing even comes close to it “fluff,” that’s like a soft, cozy blanket by the fire or a hot bubble bath with a glass of champagne, is photography. When I’m behind the lens I experience the same sensation as I do when I paint…nothing else matters, and I simply don’t think. I just create with my eyes.

My camera accompanies me like an old friend these days, nearly every day of the week. So, I thought, “Why not?” Why not just share a little of what I see in my world each week and share it for the sole purpose of simply conveying art through the eye?

So that will be your “fluff” for this blog. Every weekend I’ll share my “Week In Review” of my top seven favorite photos with absolutely ZERO purpose other than to provide you with something pleasant to look at. And don’t we all just need something nice to look at now and then?

Okay…you MIGHT learn something too, if you choose to read the caption. I guess one can never fully remove the “teacher” from the “fluffer.” 😉

All the best,

A. J.


“Stealing a Kiss” (Female Rock Pigeon flirts with a male, while sitting on the dock of Sunset Bay)


“Cleared for Landing” (Honey Bee on approach to pink Columbine)


“Soak Up the Sun” (Reakirt’s Blue female spreading her wings)


“Snake in the Grass” (Great Egret enjoys a reptilian lunch)


“It’s In There Somewhere” (Bee dives head-first into Gulf Coast Penstemon)


“Inhabit the Hive” (J. and N. transfer our first package of bees)


“Channeling Georgia O’Keeffe” (Coveting my neighbor’s poppies)

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