There is no vocabulary to explain the butterflies.
February 10, 2014
A VG Serial: Hills of Eden
One day I saw a butterfly float through the woods on golden wings. Free of the cocoon and winter, he fluttered across the lane in a scurry, threading an invisible flight path in the warm spring sun, like a dancer having nothing to do, showing off his new wings.
Two weeks before, I saw his brother, too early for spring, perched on a broken branch clustered with cedar sprigs that had fallen to the snow.
Thinking it alive and resting from its flight, I stooped down to look at the creature more closely. It didn’t move. My hand reached out to touch its wing and I saw its feet were fastened to the branch. It had been frozen there, its wings spread wide. Perfectly preserved, it looked as though it had been waiting for the cold to pass.
I brought the butterfly home, still locked to its foothold on the browned cedar branch, and set it on one of the bookcases.
The quick and the dead, the one aflight, skimming on the warm zephyrs of Cedar Creek, the early butterfly caught in the chill, as though pinned to the earth midway in its course by a lepidopterist. I take no meaning from these things, but only marvel that some beings fly and some are stiffened by the late, hanging-on winter.
The butterflies must have a time clock inside them that tells them it is time to break free of the branches and head for open spaces. Nature sometimes plays the fickle lady and taunts her delicate charges with the whispering lips of death.
This is what happened with the frozen butterfly. He was no less the flying dancer, but he looked up at blue skies over the lake and felt the warmth of a cloudless day too soon. Eager fellow, anxious to strut and show off his bright yellow wings, he became that year’s Icarus of the forest, a victim of unperfected cryogenics.
The butterfly will never come alive again, never dance on the air, never fly above the gelid perch where he last drew breath.
The one who waited, the one I saw dazzle his way above the still snowy earth, might make his way into summer. I hope he does. He has my heart in his wings. He flitted away like an old movie, into infinity, his body growing smaller and smaller until he finally winked out of sight.
There is really no vocabulary to explain such things. It’s just that we all have a quirk about life and sometimes life has a quirk about us. The butterfly that flew away is just as gone as the one that I placed on my bookcase. I see them both equally in the tapestry of life. Both are vivid in my mind, both are real. Both are gone.
Butterflies now give me a very strange feeling. Life is so ephemeral, for them and for us.
I wish I could explain how I feel about them. I wish they could explain about me.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.