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The Haven

This is the Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. The museum sits along close to the Lake and is surrounded by ponds, walkways, and tall stalks of yellowed plants enclosed in fences. We visited in late fall; I can only imagine how beautiful its grounds are when everything's in bloom. The museum itself was fairly small, housing only two stories. Most of its exhibits were designed for kids along with windowed rooms displaying the work areas of museum employees. My favorite things outside of the haven were the taxidermied birds, small animal skeletons, and a whiskered fish. But what I was anticipating the most was the butterfly release at 2:15pm. Everyday, newly hatched butterflies were released into the haven to join the others. Before entering, visitors were instructed to watch their step for grounded butterflies, not to touch any butterflies, and to check their clothing for hitchhikers upon exit. The haven itself was a very humid greenhouse. Butterflies flew about absolutely everywhere! They circled our heads, perched themselves upon leaves, and enjoyed the proffered food spaced apart every few meters. My favorites were the rice paper butterflies; they were huge and ethereal and seemed to chase each other in patterns in the air. A few butterflies remained still long enough for me to get within range and snap a few shots. One pair rested in a brush, contrasting each other brilliantly with their wings fortuitously fanned out. One was tan and brown with distinctive eyes and the other an intense hue of ocean blue. I got closer and closer and couldn't believe my luck until my friend pointed out that they were dead. We spotted more dead butterflies about as well as ones with broken wings. No one clears out the dead as they serve as food for the Japanese quail roaming throughout the haven. I like that the slightly morbid reality of life was not hidden in favor of the beauty of nature.

Veronica Zhang