(This image graces the covers of the hand-made, limited-edition greeting cards I made for the Vernal Equinox, which is today. I thought that both it and the accompanying text were equally appropriate tos hare, so I'm reproducing the card.)
The Vernal Equinox demarcates equality between night and day; afterwards, light banishes darkness, and life again returns to the land. We celebrate this shift in the balance of light and dark, cold and warm, masculine and feminine, yin and yang. In Zen, the equilibrium of the equinoxes is named o-higan.
About the Photograph
I shot this, on film, at Wigstock 2004, NYC’s annual drag-queen festival in Tompkins Square Park. It was a miserable, rainy, gray day, and those backstage (I had a pass) crowded under a small tent to stay dry.
I love photographing drag queens, transsexuals, and transvestites because—beyond their life force, gender fluidity, and tromp l’oeil nature—they just adore the camera like nobody else, honey. During a brief lull in the rain I saw the butterfly girl. I smiled and gestured with my camera; she smiled back and posed. I had time only for a few shots before the crowd surged in again and made photography impossible.
Who better to embody the equality of masculine and feminine; the season’s transformation from drab, dormant chrysalis to brightly-decorated butterfly; and the conundrum underlying Chou’s question?
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
— Chuang Chou
Best Wishes for the Vernal Equinox,