Butterfly sculptures line the gardens of Eden Park in downtown Cincinnati, calling us to Krohn Conservatory. They've recently opened their seasonal exhibit, "Butterflies of Japan," and apparently, it is the place to be. The line has wrapped around the front of the building by the time my mother and I reach it, and I overhear a volunteer cheerfully tell another patron that "it's only a thirty minute wait" from where they're standing. Someone's Japanese club stands at the entrance of the conservatory to serenade us. They sing "Sukiyaki," a song I remember from my own days learning high school Japanese. I don't remember any of the words, but I do know it's a sad song about a love lost, and it's named after a hot pot dish. Delicious.
We are so excited when we finally reach the door, only to discover that we are not yet at the exhibit. The line extends through the cactus room,
the orchid room,
and the bonsai room.
Everyone wants to see these butterflies. It's a good mix of parents, grandparents, small children, and young people. A twenty-something hipster in a yellow t-shirt stands in front of us and makes lazy jokes about the wait.
It's glass separating the bonsai room from the butterfly room, and while most of what we can see is people moving slowly around the garden, a ripple of excitement moves through the small cluster of us waiting at the door every time a butterfly flits past the windows. The volunteer attending the door waits for a nod of approval from inside, and finally lets us into the long-awaited butterfly room.
It's packed. The room is designed to resemble a tranquil Japanese garden, but we can't quite see the landscaping through the bodies. It's not easy to move through - everyone is standing very still and speaking in very hushed tones, trying to lure a butterfly close enough for a good picture.
Fortunately, there are butterflies in abundance. Little white ones that hop from flower to flower. Orange ones that fly between the leaves of the citrus trees. Monarchs. Spotted ones that helpfully pose with their wings laid flat. Once or twice we find ourselves ducking out of the path of a large butterfly with brilliant blue wings. Young and old, everyone gently lifts their hand towards oncoming fliers, silently wishing, "Choose me. Land here."
A tired-looking volunteer with a big wicker basket offers us a silk flower. "They're attracted to the color," she explains. I decline, but Mother takes a purple sunflower and holds it straight up in the air. The hipster stumbles past us with his own flower, drawing attention to himself by acting like a child.
We could stay and watch the butterflies all day, but the air is thick and the room is cramped, and knowing there is more to see, Mother and I decide to move on. With one last look back, I see the hipster delicately raise his hand to a passing butterfly.
Stepping out of the claustrophobic bubble of the butterfly room is a relief. The rest of the conservatory is much more breathable - two long wings filled to the brim with tropical trees, plants, and flowers. As we walk to the end of the room with a waterfall, we pass a sign that says, "Look up! We have bananas!"
And indeed they did. Butterflies and bananas - what more could you ask for?
Learn more about Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park and their website.