I love putting myself into wild arenas where I am forced to pay attention. The adrenaline surge I feel while easing a canoe into the slick drop of a rowdy rapids or scrambling up a ragged peak fuels my aliveness.

Today I wanted a gentler dose of awareness. I packed a water bottle, journal, camera and folding camp chair in my daypack. After a ten-minute walk I stopped in front of a single plant in a sea of diverse prairie flora.

I had chosen a solo blue wand of my favorite prairie flower, a blazing star. I’m not alone in my fondness for this late summer bloom. The blue color combined with the essence of the blossom’s nectar hails many pollinating insects to pause on the flower for nourishment.

There are five species of blazing star in Minnesota and they are not created equal in their ability to attract butterflies. The monarch butterfly, in particular, considers the northern plains blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis) the champagne of flowers. It is not unusual to see a number of monarchs clambering over one of these flower stalks to feed.

I settled comfortably into my small chair, with my back to the sun, no more than three feet from the blazing star. Admittedly I could have parked myself on the ground and been less conspicuous but as a good friend used to say, “Any fool can be uncomfortable.”

In mere seconds a pair of copulating soldier beetles, also known as Pennsylvania leatherwings shuffled into view from the backside of the flower stalk. Both sexes look similar with orange and black colors on their wing covers. At first glance the ponderous shuffler looked to be one big beetle but closer scrutiny revealed that the male was on top of the female. The duo sidled into view like a pair of shy exhibitionists.

I did not avert my gaze but instead leaned in for a closer look. Does this make me guilty of flagrant voyeurism as I watched them move tortoiselike up the vertical boudoir of blue?

Minutes passed, then a half hour. I was impressed with their skills of lovemaking. A movement just above the beetle lovers caught my eye. A brown and orange Peck’s skipper butterfly landed momentarily and then flittered back into air before alighting closer to the intimate beetle pair. Was this arthropod equally guilty of sexual spying?

The Peck’s skipper is one of many species of skipper butterflies. Skippers are all relatively small, a quarter the size of a monarch or less. They do not flitter buoyantly. Instead they hurry to and fro and tumble as if they do not want to be seen. If you look closely you will see the unique club-shaped antennae that resemble a pair of crochet hooks.

The Peck’s skipper is named after William Peck, Harvard’s first natural history professor in 1805. The small stocky-bodied butterfly is common in grasslands and gardens.

Like most skippers, it did not alight with its wings spread out. Instead, it held its wings upright like a small sail above its back. Consequently I was viewing the underside of the hindwing. Both sexes have large yellow spots in the center surrounded by dark brown.

This skipper was likely a male, as they typically alight on a perch at midday to survey the area for the appearance of a female. In other words, he was cruising.

I didn’t get to study the little skipper very long as it suddenly dropped from the blazing star and fluttered into some nearby grasses. Had he seen a female rustling nearby?

Unflustered by the skipper and me, the pair of soldier beetles continued their lazy coupling.

Minutes passed. Soon a similar skipper landed on the blazing star. Was this the same male or a different one? It soon tumbled off while the soldier beetles practiced connectivity.

I sat for two hours observing the comings and goings at the blazing star.

My water bottle was empty and I was getting warm. If I were to take a lesson from this prairie sit it seemed I had two options. One, the skipper model, would be to tumble away. The other, the way of the beetles, would be to amble back to the house and share my learnings with Nancy.

And who knows what might come next?