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Malachite at the Butterfly Pavillion at the Natural History Museum; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

Every spring, as I (Richard Bilow) drive through the street of LA, I see banners promoting the butterfly pavilion at the Natural History Museum. Each time I promise myself I will go experience the attraction, but until last week I had not taken time to go. Considering how much I love nature, this really makes no sense. I am fascinated by the limitless variety of butterflies that exist around the world, and as an artist, I am truly amazed by the colors, patterns, textures and designs they display. So this year, when I saw the banners, I decided the wait was over. Having recently tested a new 600mm camera lens (while photographing wild iris flowers in the Owens Valley), I knew I was well-prepared to capture some sweet images of these little flying works of art. So, I created the time and set my schedule.

Buckeye Butterfly at the Butterfly Pavillion at the Natural History Museum; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

Butterflies seem to like the sun, so I scheduled my visit for a sunny day, just after a late season rain in May. I called the museum before leaving to be sure they had availability. The exhibit is quite popular, and it gets crowded. If you are going on a weekend, call first and schedule your visitation time. That way you will get in for sure. If you have a flexible schedule, go during the week. In either case, be prepared to take some pictures. If you have a telephoto lens, bring it. If not, don’t worry. You can get really close to the butterflies, and there are lots of them. Some will fly away of course. Others however will just sit still and allow you to get very close.

Zebra Longwing butterfly at the Butterfly Pavillion at the Natural History Museum; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

There is something about butterflies that is almost mystical, and watching them was hypnotic. They are like little angels. I could not help imagining that my mother’s spirit was hitchhiking a ride on one of these creatures, as they fluttered around the pavilion then landed on the flowers, the ground and the visitors’ heads. Please don’t take me literally. I’m not saying that my mother was reincarnated in the form of a butterfly. What I am saying is that I could not help thinking of her, as I watched these flying angels. Of all people, she knew best how much I appreciate nature. Let’s face it, she is the one who had to stay calm somehow, when my pet snakes and lizards escaped into the living room. Reptiles and fish were my primary interest as a child, but I have since discovered that all of nature is miraculous.

Great Southern White butterfly at the Butterfly Pavillion at the Natural History Museum; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

Visiting the natural history museum’s butterfly pavilion is a simple, affordable and convenient way to connect with and appreciate nature if the form of butterflies. Of course, the museum has an array of other natural wonders to experience as well. So, create some time and make it a staycation. Mother nature needs your love.

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