Out of the Blue
I am hiking in a dry wash on a beautiful warm day in the high desert. Puffy clouds cast intermittent shadows over the landscape and a gusting wind cools my sweat-moistened skin. At my feet is a creamy buckwheat flower (Eriogonum ovalifolium) hosting a diminutive Anna’s blue butterfly. There are over 300 species of wild buckwheat in the Great Basin and high desert areas of the West. This family of plants has nothing to do with the buckwheat we may eat for breakfast. It is a unique botanical species adapted to primarily arid climates.
But I am most attracted to the splash of blue resting atop a cream-colored ball tinged with pink. I am used to seeing the Anna’s blue butterfly higher up in the Cascades, sipping moisture and minerals from wet soil near mountain streams and lakes. This sighting seems strangely out of place, even though the area is certainly within the butterfly’s range. I wonder if it lost its way or is simply on a road trip.
The small insect does not seem to notice me and I am able to get a good close-up photo to enlarge at home. I am always amazed at the details emerging from a blown-up image—those little characteristics unseen by the naked eye. But the real image is beyond characteristics. It is the symbol resting in my mind. The Vajrayana teachings suggest that everything we see is a gesture of our wisdom mind. What we see is how we are seeing, a symbolic gesture of innate radiance.
The blue butterfly and wild buckwheat are none other than a dance of my perception. The less contrived the dance, the more awake we become. I think this is why the natural world is such a potent reminder of our original wakefulness. It shape-shifts. In the moment nature expresses something, it is gone—the butterfly flies away and the buckwheat decays. A photograph is only a nano-second of experience that is long gone.