If you have a secret wish, capture a butterfly and whisper your wish to it. Since butterflies cannot speak, your secret is ever safe in their keeping. Release the butterfly, and it will carry your wish to the Great Spirit, who alone knows the thoughts of butterflies. By setting the butterfly free, you are helping to restore the balance of nature, and your wish will surely be granted. (Native American legend)
Sleep has been elusive, something I can almost reach out for and feel tickling against the tips of my fingers, something almost tangible, but I've had a difficult time grasping it and curling it around me like a warm blanket. And so tonight, despite the most valiant of efforts (bedtime tea, a warm shower, lavender lotion and candles, even a small shot of Agavero--just enough to paint the inside of the shot glass a syrupy gold but barely enough to warm my belly) I climbed out of bed, Ken asleep next to me and stumbled down the hall in the dark. The cats were strangely absent from bed and as I rounded the corner between the kitchen and the dining room I saw them gathered, not quite in conference, but as an audience on the table before the large window, faces up and riveted. My eyes were still adjusting and the clock on the microwave seemed impossibly bright and green. My ears, however, were fine, and from somewhere over the cats' heads I caught the faint sound of tiny hands clapping, elfin hands, or the hands of flower petal fairies, clapping rapidly and softly as though covered by mitten or a thick layer or moist bread dough. I stepped around the table, exciting Pip, who leapt straight up in the air before me, almost at the window. He did that amazing cat trick spinning in mid air and somehow righting himself to land on the table thus preventing an embarrassing fall in front of his sisters. The clapping grew a little louder, a little more desperate and then I caught sight of movement up top, near the linen valance draped low, like gauze, from the curtain rod. Not hands, not fairies, not clapping but the butterfly who'd slipped in this afternoon. The street lamp on Bowles painted it as a large silhouette but as it trembled I also caught the briefest glimpse of the fire tucked away on the underside of its wings.
Quick, before the cats could leap again, I grabbed a plastic Tupperware bowl and the latest Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon which arrived in the mail today, a long rectangular thing of a good weight, sturdy and not likely to bend. I climbed the table, scattering the cats with my cracking knees and the jangle from the ceramic chimes knocking against my head. The clapping fluttering increased and now there was a definite thumping, a soft body knocking repeatedly against the glass, obscuring the street lamp repeatedly. Carefully and half blind, I took aim and caught it in the container against the window, sliding the coupon under it quickly without catching a wing or a toe, jumped off the table and carried it to the door.
I am a sentimental fool, but I believe those who know me best would admit it's one of my more endearing characteristics. I believe in thanking the universe for its gifts, offering gratitude to poetry and magic for touching your life, even if only briefly. So in the breezeway, the cats feet away on the other side of the door as if hoping I'd change my mind and toss them a treat, I slid the coupon away and looked down at my precious friend.
"Thank you," I whispered. "Thank you for the calm and all the dreams and all the hope. Thank you for staying with me and bringing peace with you. Go," and I gently tossed it into the air where it fluttered a moment before me, its legs furry and thick beneath it, the brilliant orange of its wings dazzling my eyes. It sank, caught and righted itself and hovered overhead a moment before dancing across the breezeway and up into the night, cool and restful.
And now I believe I will sleep.