Look, my attention span can be a tad short at times, so I get it. No one likes doing anything over and over again, for what? It seems pointless and like a waste of time. Even Einstein said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” I agree with the principle, don’t get me wrong, but as a scientist, I have to add that sometimes repetition is beneficial. Repetition can lead to mastery. Sometimes you aren’t looking for a different result, but rather you are trying to get the full picture and not miss or exclude anything. Accuracy is how well you hit the target, but precision shows how well you are at hitting a target, repeatedly. You need both. A practical example is for certain tests in the medical lab, we run controls per patient so the unknown is being compared to a positive and negative sample in real-time to ensure the reliability of the test. (Granted, all tests have controls, just not every test requires controls being performed every time we test. Don’t come for me, lol) Repetition gives you something to compare to.
Well, I believe most skills are transferable, so I’ve learned that repetition helps me even in gardening. When it comes to my butterflies, very rarely do I see a completely new one. That’s me getting lucky on those days. MOST often, I’m seeing old butterflies that I’ve already identified. I still chase and try to get a picture every time, though. If I’ve learned anything from my microscope work as a med lab scientist, is that if you move from a spot, you may never find that one thing you were looking at again. I take every shot I can, so my photography can only get better and clearer.
The species I tend to see most here in Louisiana is the Gulf Fritillary (pictured above). It’s so beautiful and often mistaken for the Monarch because of its orange color. I see them so often I can predict certain landmarks in my area to find them and the times they are most active. They are very people friendly and have often let me interact with them.
The more I see them, the more I notice their behavior and distinct features. I observe how they fly, socialize, feed, you name it. Butterfly wings can be complex, and there are a lot of look-a-likes. For example, check out the VARIEGATED Fritillary, a close relative (pictured below).
If I haven't come across the Gulf Fritillary more times than I can count, I wouldn't notice the subtle differences to know that the Variegated one was different. To be even more honest, I had to commit to chasing an unidentified, orange butterfly to even be able to see whether it was the same or different. I was rewarded for my commitment that day. I could've easily shrugged it off.
Often when referring to a butterfly I use feminine pronouns out of habit, but butterflies do indeed have sexes. With no other species of butterflies have I been able to become this knowledgeable, but thanks to my passion of always taking pictures of Gulf Fritillaries, I was able to dive deeper into understanding them. Females are described as darker, having more pronounced markings, etc. Males are known to be longer. Check out this source.
I believe this to be female.
And this to be male.
Once upon a time, I would be naive enough to be annoyed that I see them so often. Maybe early into my med lab career before I accepted the principle of repetition. Another layer to this concept is that although I know how beneficial practice is, I also have such a love for butterflies, that I don't mind seeing the same one again and again. I don't mind putting myself out there and maybe being wrong on an ID. Nothing about this life feels pointless because I am living my purpose. It doesn't feel like boredom or work. I naturally always chase and always try to get a picture, whether it works out in the end or not. I've fallen in love with the pursuit.
I hope that whatever skill or craft you're honing sustains you even when it feels monotonous. I hope you recognize the benefits during the process. When I was just taking pictures, I never considered that one day I'd go back and say "oh, that's a male" or be able to notice more things in hindsight. That's the beauty of the journey, though. You don't always know where you're headed, but you have to keep faith that the path you walking leads to somewhere beautiful for you. 🦋
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison