The Best Thing in Phuket, Thailand is the Butterfly Garden.


I approached the garden with some trepidation. As noted in Light and Shadow, Thailand is a country and culture that, on the whole, doesn't interact with other animals in a way that jives with my morals. I'm not cool with elephants being chained up or used for shows or really, doing anything but elephant stuff. On their own. So I was worried about the Butterfly Garden.

The garden draws you in with a promise nobody can resist: come hang out in a space where gorgeous butterflies will fly around you. It sounds awesome.

But there's a beautiful twist: that hook is to get you in the door, so they can show you all about the fantastic world of insects, and teach you about habitat, conservation, and the impact that our actions on the earth are having on a huge number of living things. To show you all the really cool and useful things that spiders and cockroaches and honeybees do. And holy crap look at that amazingly gorgeous butterfly that JUST LANDED ON YOUR ARM. Nature is AMAZING, right?

Nature is amazing. And we, as one of the creatures in it, sometimes get to look around with a golly-gee-whiz look on our face, marveling at the diversity and beauty of the sheer number of ways life has arranged itself.

Today, I got to watch a tiger butterfly chasing another rare butterfly off its territory (a flowering bush.) I saw, on my very arm, a brilliant black-and-transparent-and-gold butterfly uncurl its proboscis, test if my arm contained any nectar (tests came back negative.) I walked under and around hundreds of chrysalises. I sat next to a butterfly with fern-like antennae, whose wings unfolded were bigger than my head.

The best thing about hanging out with butterflies - the thing they're so uniquely suited in reminding us about the natural world - is that they're delicate.

You can't stomp around a space filled with flitting wings. You're acutely aware of how giant and deadly your feet and arms are. You have to tread slow, gentle, aware. Even young boys move more slowly, pinball energy naturally restrained.

In that space, the understanding that what we do affects other living things isn't cerebral. It's obvious. It's visceral. And all you want to do is move in a way that lets you appreciate the wonder, and not mess any of it up.

There are many, many reasons to care about taking care of the world we find ourselves on. Today, I was reminded of another one:

Because it is amazing.

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