The Rhododendrons

By J Michaud PhD

In this true short story the author reveals why Nature is the greatest Book of Wisdom ever written and how to read its mysteries.

There once stood a huge Rhododendron Bush in the park of a great Continental City, and all its flowers were like large roses in all colours, with velvet, fleshy petals on which mysterious gleams lay at rest when the sun had risen in the morning, and some vestiges of dew were speckled on the foliage and blooms; dew undispersed as yet by the golden rays, shed beauty on the morning air. And in the centre of the bush, concealed from the eyes of the watchful keepers who are the unrelenting enemies of little boys, there stood a small lad, quite lost in wonder at the miracles displayed before his eager gaze. For not only were the flowers a very heaven of delight to look at, but they were also the haunt of many insects, beautiful with glittering sheens, and butterflies in colours fresh from the palette of their Creators, and they fluttered from bloom to bloom, and drank the nectar of the rosy, white or deep red goblets, especially prepared for them by the gods; and they trembled with delights quite inconceivable to man.

And those Rose-bay Trees and bushes welcomed their dainty visitors with open chalices of beauty, the drooping stamens standing quite upright when softly touched with delicate care by the slender feet and searching antennæ, which carried pollen from other flowers to their ovaries.

And, when the butterflies had drained the ambrosial cup, they sat upon the oblong smooth leaves and waved their lovely wings, as if saying grace with thankful hearts for the feast of their hosts, the lilac, the purple, golden or any-other-coloured flowers, the bushes lovely ball-frocks, as it were, in which they all were clad in the sunny month of June, when these shrubs abound in full perfection.

The Glory of Butterfly and Insect

Some think that butterflies and other insects are attracted by the colours of the flowers; others say it is their scent. But who can be certain of such things who is not a butterfly or bee himself?

At times the great Convolvulus Hawk-moth, with flesh-coloured body, black-banded, and wings with narrow grey and black streaks, is seen to hover over flowers in the dusk, but sometimes he appears also in the daytime, keeping company with the butterflies which the young lad beholds. Or the black-and-rose-bodied Privet Hawk comes sailing along, with his pale pink hindwings, transverse banded; he whose green but white-streaked caterpillar has been compared to the mystic Egyptian Sphinx; and the most lovely of all, the gorgeous Madder Hawk, dark olive-green with pale red band upon the hindwings, varied with white, the outer margin intersected by black nervures, is a very handsome visitor.

The larger butterflies sail in the air like wingèd canoes of fairies, the small ones flutter in dancing, jerking or sometimes hovering flight above the many-flowered bush.

Most common are the whites, the Brassicæ, the Rapæ, and the green-veined Napi. Sometimes there comes the Orange-tip, or the fascinating Coleas Hyale, pale-clouded yellow, or the magnificent Edusa, warm-tinted, like the child of sun he is. There is no end to the beautiful creations seen in nature.

The pleasant Bee and eager Wasp zoom in the air, and at times, some small adventurous beetle creeps up the stems in search of that which instinct tells him is needed for his sustenance, and rises then above the soil, his common habitat.

Weird caterpillars creep about or lie concealed along the twigs, invisible to the eye of the uninitiated. Sometimes they seem to have lost their way, like the velvety black larva of the Queen of Spain fritillary, densely sprinkled with tiny dots, each dot bearing a black bristle. Six rows of spines he has, brown, and his head is amber-coloured above, with black and bristly beard below. His food plant is the Sweet Violet, or Heartsease, or the Viola Canina; how does he come to walk upon the Rhododendron bush? And many of the male butterflies have lovely scents, to attract therewith the ladies. Some smell like chocolate cream, as does the brown Megæra, or Wall Brown butterfly; whilst Semele's odour, the Grayling, is like sandalwood. The Queen of Spain's perfume is heliotrope, and the Long-tailed Blue smells like meadowsweet. The odour of the little Whites is like sweetbriar rose, and the green-veined White has all the lure of lemon verbena; whilst the lovely flier called Cleopatra's scent is a rich and most powerful freesia.

The insects see and hear and feel and taste and smell in the strangest fashions, but it is known that they have glands or sense-organs of which the functions are quite unknown; and who shall tell the sweet enchantments of the ladies of their kind, when their lovers wave their wings towards them, and send their inamorata such beautiful, enchanting odours? At times the little lad beheld the courtship of the butterflies, and saw how the male holds down the female with his legs upon her body, and strokes her back, beneath the wings, with his antennæ, to the lady's evident delight. Such are great wonders to any thinking sensitive mind; but the greatest miracle occurs when those insects sit at rest upon the flower, first imbibing honey, undisturbed, and then in meditation. Then, if one has the capacity, like the small boy, and blends the human mind with that which the butterfly is thinking, feeling and seeing, new worlds of beauty open out, which cannot be compared with anything the human mind can see or feel or smell or imagine in the highest flights of fancy. For then it comes to pass that both the butterfly's spirit and the spirit of the flower have risen high on aerial wings to other regions; and all is magic there and unguessed beauty, and the enraptured spirit of the child flies with them to those splendid realms. And there he beholds a vast congregation of strange creatures beyond the dreams of Paradise, radiant with celestial plenitudes, luminous with glory. He is transposed into a world of quite unknown delights; a world of fragrance unimaginable, and of delicate lights and colours.

The Elfin Voices and Drifting Scents

Here the flowers speak with elfin voices, and the butterfly's soul replies with murmurs which have the splendour of the honeysuckle and the rose; and both speech and murmur sound like the songs of the elevated spirits of a heaven over-canopied with the lusciousness of many stars which shine in the rosy light of such a Sun as only flowers can imagine. The very odours of the air are whispers of delightful adoration of that fairy Sun, and each whisper is a new revelation of the might of benediction of great Spirits whose divine hieroglyphs enrich the floral tenderness of that new Heaven.

The paintbrush of the Flower Gods paints love-tints upon the glory of their day, aflame with amorous ardour. And every tint is eloquent with smiles, and has the rosy countenance of an angel.

Who shall describe the Wisdom of the Gods who send their blessings even to the butterflies, born in rose or jasmine bowers, to become fine flowers upon the wind, and heedless of the low concerns of earthly man? But the virgin mind of a child can still enblend with godlike beauty, before it is ensnared in earthly woes. And the lad felt that the colours and the scents were pensive with the thoughts of God, the Maker of Mysteries divine. And the aromatic perfume and the colours seem to blend, and emit soft breezes of painted odours which drift about upon a sea of rosy light. And the incense takes on form, and countless wingèd beings float upon that airy sea of redolence, and it is as if the spirits of long-dead flowers of the earth are passing by in radiant happiness. And the spirits and the wingèd ones meet, embracing, as if they were affinities of angelic nature, now meeting after separations lasting for many ages of utter loneliness. And now the very air begins to smile, and the colours and the scents shed benedictions like unto sweet effluviums of myrrh and bergamot; of chypre and the attar of full-blown roses; as if a generous Khalif of some heavenly Arabian Nights did shower untold gifts in an apotheosis of royal splendour.

And all the while the scents and colours are drifting by; and the spirits and the wingèd ones trail gauzy fluttering robes and draperies angelical upon the scented winds which bear the fresh young smell of peaches, nectarines and apricots, sugar-melons and ripe grapes, but of a finer essence than the fruits of earth, sweetly sharp and fascinating. Pastel clouds are adrift within the sky in fancy dress of polychrome perfection, of mother-of-pearl or opals in harlequin display. Most sumptuous and stately do the cloudlets walk upon the sky-floor, like gallants of the quaint Renaissance, who with courtly ceremonial escort their ladies, dressed in the pink, cerise or reseda splendour of a royal Court; and they step with a soft, sedate and delicate air beside their courteous companions.

And the butterfly's spirit beholds this beauty, as does the spirit of the little boy, and the twain are one and full of ecstasy, becoming part of this ambrosial happiness.

And the scents and colours whirl and mix and seem to leap with joy: each leap is the cause of countless aromatic sparks, which like a magic fountain rise up in the air with marvellous velocity and ardour.

A luscious rain of sweetness falls from the clouds in drops as small as atoms, and a vital drift of spiritualised beauty fills all that unsubstantial atmosphere with visionary intoxication—and the butterfly's wings tremble ever on, as if his spirit strained upon the leash which holds him down within the earthly realm of being: and all his mystic unknown centres and organs of perception are ablaze with tenuous, ethereal excellencies, fabulous but potential; and the spirit is rapt with exaltation. And all that realm was full of beauty's eloquence, a glorious burst of utter genius, and angelic oration; for true eloquence is the language of the gods, and thou shalt be heard by them—and behold the Splendour.

How graceful are thy bounties, O Lords of Beauty; how virtuous are thy creations. He who is One with Heaven hath Heaven in his Soul. That which the butterflies and the boy beheld was a coronation of all that is beautiful and chaste, a culmination of a rainbow glory. Blessèd is the spiritual Pilgrim that beholds such marvels, which are hidden from the unblest blind.

It was as if a Bard of God had climbed the highest mountain of his Heaven, and gazed upon the wonders of an unknown Paradise.

He saw, and beheld a torrent of celestial enchantment's rare nobility; but a torrent which ended in a Lake of Holy Peace.

Thus did the small boy dream and see within the centre of the Rhododendron bush; a vision which can never be forgotten.


This story was originally published in the now defunct magazine, the Occult Observer, Vol. 1 No.6, in 1950. If you have enjoyed it you may also like The Bronze Mirror—another short story written by the author of a past-life in ancient Egypt recalled through psychometry.


© Copyright J Michaud PhD & Article published 14 August 2015.
Updated 14 March 2023.

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