A gentle obsession

The most wonderful day of the year … not

Pop psychologists like to debate whether a divorce is more stressful than moving house. I’d like to invite one of these know-it-alls to campus one year to see where move-in day falls in the rankings.

As stressors go, it’s not really the traffic, though I do love tailgating a luxury sedan with Jersey plates through the parking garage after we’ve already navigated the dented orange traffic cans and clueless pedestrians. (That said, pick a street, any street, and it’s probably closed.) It could be the scantily clad coeds who make me blush with their body positivity and barely-there fashions. And I guess if I’m honest, it could be the jaywalkers, scooters, discarded red solo cups, and random trash strewn across our lawn at Michigan News.

The only positive amid this annual chaos is the quick glimpse I get of the shirtless young lads jogging up Stadium toward Pioneer during my evening commute.

Bogged down

Bryan Pfeiffer at the beach with his camra and a long lens.

Pfeiffer’s passions also include birding and dragonflies. (Image courtesy of Bryan Pfeiffer.)

Confronting this sensory overload after a long, hot summer can be a bit overstimulating. That’s why I led this issue with a charming, slow-motion feature by George Spencer about a Vermont-based alum and field biologist who appears to have stepped right out of Central Casting with his binoculars, butterfly net, and giant camera. He’s not a billionaire tech guru from the College of Engineering. He didn’t graduate Ross and take over Wall Street. And he’s not some mad scientist who is on the verge of curing cancer.

But Bryan Pfeiffer, BS ’80, is a gifted essayist and photographer, a former newspaper guy, and a naturalist. And this alum has found the ideal antidote to our hyper-aggro modern times. He is happiest when slogging through a squishy bog in pursuit of a rare butterfly, an outrageously gorgeous dragonfly, or a delicate little bird.

Now 65 and having survived a near-fatal heart attack five years ago, Pfeiffer reflects on a 20-year quest he just completed to spot, photograph, and protect the Bog Elfin butterfly, a “fragile flier” that never appeared in Vermont until recently.

“I think an important part of aging is wisdom and slowing down,” Pfeiffer tells our writer. “Most of us, no matter our age, would do well to slow down in almost every respect. I think being older in a bog, moving more slowly in a bog, being more aware in a bog, allowed me to find this rare butterfly.”

I’m in. Now where can I book a bog for the next move-in day?

(Lead image: The Bog Elfin butterfly Pfeiffer photographed in May.)

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