On a sunny Sunday afternoon in summer, I lazed on a lounge chair in the shade of a red maple at an outdoor pool in Seekonk, Mass.
Some 30 minutes after dozing off, I opened my eyes to find a butterfly whizzing back and forth over my feet.
The butterfly was a red admiral, which eventually settled on the hard, white plastic edge of the seat.
The 2-inch butterfly opened dark-chocolate-colored wings wide to reveal an orange band and a white spotted pattern on each forewing and a black-spotted, orange margin on each hind wing.
My lounge chair bordered an open forest adjacent to the swimming pool, plots of perennials, and fields of thistle and goldenrod. There were lots of edges between the fields, forests and open green spaces -- good butterfly-watching habitat.
The admiral departed as I stood up. That’s when I noticed what looked like an especially attractive leaf on the forest edge foliage.
That leaf was a painted lady butterfly, a relative of the red admiral. Both species belong to the lovely-named genus of butterflies called Vanessa.
Slightly larger than the red admiral, the painted lady showed off black-tipped, white-spotted forewings that blended back into a pattern of orange and black.
The painted lady remained stationary but began beating its wings together rapidly. The action reminded me of a cymbal-banging monkey toy.
I turned away and after just a few steps found a third, dark and small erratically flying butterfly, which seemed to challenge me for a puddle of water in a sunny spot.
I stepped back and the little butterfly landed at the puddle’s edge, opening its wings.
Called a common sootywing, the butterfly looked half the size of the red admiral. The sootywing’s outer forewings contained some white spots. Otherwise, the butterfly was dark.
I returned to the chair to loll again, like a seal on a rock.
In this spirit of idleness and wonder, I didn’t get worked up when a 3-inch purplish butterfly whooshed by before I could identify it.
But I did note that a black swallowtail flew past. This was a large-spotted, iridescent beauty. I also saw my first two monarch butterflies of the season.
Eating dinner by the pool the following weekend, I watched an Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly zip by the picnic table.
When I shared the sighting with dinner partners, an 8-year-old named Henry told me that an Eastern tiger swallowtail landed on his big toe when he got out of the pool earlier in the day.
Henry’s 8-year-old buddy, Noah, confirmed the occurrence and added that the butterfly’s bright colors and large-sized body and wings suggested that it was indeed an Eastern tiger swallowtail.
The exchange reminded me that butterfly admiration/watching was ageless.
That evening, I returned to my chair under the red maple to continue loitering. Chilling out let me close my eyes and think about nothing. It also unlocked my senses to the beautiful creatures that shared the same space.
Dozing off to images of real butterflies dancing in my head, I thought of the quote from the late Satchel Paige: “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometime I just sits.”
(Contact Scott Turner, The Providence Journal’s nature columnist, at scottturnerstergmail.com.)