Wednesday, July 30, 2008


"The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower a tethered butterfly."
(Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun)

I believe in the power of the butterfly, a power that transcends and transforms, shapes the events and occurrences of the world and nature, and guides the soul. Butterflies do not fly, they dance and the joy of their short lives is evident in everything they do. They have occupied a huge portion of my heart, have restored my faith and have altered the course of my life in ways that are too numerous to go into now.

Duncan and I have kept our eyes open for butterflies on our walks in the grueling heat the last several days but have found none. Many times at the lake I have seen one spring from the tall grass along the shore and have held my breath waiting for that moment when its wings unfurl and color erupts into the world in a way that is bigger than the sunrise and sunset, only to discover a grasshopper, the prankster of the insect world, its wings out like a Chinese folding fan, with a flight too sure and straight to be a butterfly. Now, in this time, the joke is not well received. My heart has been breaking for the sight of one and the fields of Colorado have become strangely absent of their presence. Butterflies calm me, restore my faith and give me strength to do things when it seems there is none. Their mad polonaise has helped cut a path for me to follow through the world as they move ahead of me, searching for a place of rest and sanctuary.

Anyone who knows me well knows I do not pray, I send butterflies.

And so our paths and walks have been devoid of them. This afternoon I was almost frantic, desperate to find one and watch it, inhale the fluttering air it left in its wake and clear my mind. But it wasn't until we returned home, empty-handed and hot, hardly able to breath through this record-breaking heat, my shirt soaked through and Duncan, head hanging low and panting hard, that we discovered one, waiting like an old friend at my door--on my door, just above the knob where I would be sure to see it, a greatbighuge thing, like the palm of my hand, the color of dirt when its wings were folded up. I gasped and could not move. It twitched and as its wings parted only slightly I saw a brilliant shade of orange tucked inside, like a praise or a hymn to the sun clutched in the mouth, dancing and aching for release on the tongue, but not yet sung or uttered. I watched it, my heart racing, my breath coming fast, my fingers doing little clenching dances against my fists as I fought the impulse to reach out and touch it, pet it and rub some of its pixie dust on my fingers so I could make a mark across my heart. Instead, after long minutes of Duncan whining and sighing loudly against the door, I cracked it open to squeeze him through and then close it softly so I could marvel at my symbol, the wish the universe had granted and delivered directly to me. Duncan pushed through, dragging his leash, limp and warm, behind him, and as he did the butterfly slipped from the door, unfurled its wings and with one graceful beat, thrust itself into my home, swooping low over Dunc's back and then up, its wings burning cinders as it moved through the air. Winnie and Olive, perched atop the back of the couch, stood up tall and stretched high, their eyes wide, the very tips of their tails pulsing erratically. I pushed the door open and followed after it as it scraped the ceiling, dropped several feet and settled on my Christmas cactus. I sat at the table and watched it, barely able to breath, until the cats scampered from the couch and clamored up table. Winnie is content and observant, but Olive is still young and wild and I did not trust her to leave our guest in peace so I scooped them up, one under each arm––Winnie's bony little body light and soft in the crook of my elbow, Olive heavier and fat, her weight folding around my arm, paws digging softly into the skin of my wrist. I took them down the hall to the bedroom, pulling the door closed behind me and hurried back to the dining room where I discovered my friend had departed. I have searched for over an hour and have not seen it since, but there is tranquility in knowing it is here with me, somewhere, watching and lighting whichever corner it has taken refuge in, a flower in a dark place.

"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 Tzu

*The first image was borrowed from Google Images


Sue said...

Incredible post. Loved it, loved it!

dad said...

Your butterfly livs the show biz axiom, "always leave 'em wanting more."

Chris & Mackenzie said...

I feel the same way about geckos. Ever since I was a boy I've been fascinated by them.