Ramada Inn and Beyond

Dear friends, this is my message after a night on the lesser side of Houston where I have just left the Ramada Inn (the lesser of two Ramada’s) to plunk down at the United Club at the airport, and where I am stuffing myself with “pure butter shortbread” cookie thingies.

The things I have learned in the past 24 hours:

1) if you are destined to miss your plane, you will no matter how fast you run from the end of one terminal to the end of the other.

2) when an airline says they will put you up for the night, it does NOT mean at a luxury place or a place near to the airport (and they will fudge what they tell you or deflect or otherwise be unhelpful.)

3) locked windows policy does not apply to 3-story Ramada’s, which is good because opening a window clears away the bug killer smell.

4) you can be satisfied with a dinner of canned peaches from a salad bar at a place named Hot Biscuits that also, btw, serves breakfast at $3.99.

5) “Velvet” is the name of a real woman who works the night shift at the Ramada and she is sweet as they come.

6) there are automatic waffle makers that make damned good waffles. Now if only the syrup were the real stuff and the butter pats weren’t frozen.

7) the breakfast waitress calls you “ladybug” and you shouldn’t be flattered. She calls all women that.

8) closets, bathroom counters, complimentary toiletries, something in the minibar are all unnecessary luxuries. A good bed is a necessity, and it was.

9) what they lacked in ambiance was compensated for by the largest best selection of whiskies in the area, judging by the hang dog clientele draped over the bar through the night.

10) I enjoyed it, immensely, especially in the past tense. And now back to reading “Origin of the Species” and eating shortcake thingies. Next stop, Quito.

Photos below: note cement bags in lobby


Checking in




Fatima Gailani: President of the Afghan Red Crescent Society

Since 2004 Fatima has been President of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, arguably the most powerful woman in a position to bring positive change on the ground for the Afghan people. Fatima returned to Afghanistan at the beginning of 2002 after 23 years in exile, dating from the Russian invasion when she and other members of her prominent family fled to safety in a last-minute escape complete with family jewels hidden inside baby’s clothing.

Fatima Gailani, Red Crescent, Afghanistan

During exile Fatima was a media personality in London and a spokesperson for the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, a political party founded by her father Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani (Pir Saheb), prestigious leader of the religious order of Qadiriyyah Sufi in Afghanistan.

How I met Fatima: Days before returning to Kabul, Fatima was at my home outside of Washington, DC where she and other women experts in the nature of peace spent three days answering the question “What is peace, and how can women build it?” That meeting led to my founding Peace X Peace (“peace by peace”), the first social network connecting women to other women around the world. It grew to include thousands of members in 130 nations. Also in my family room were the novelist Isabel Allende, Susan Collin Marks, executive vice president of Search for Common Ground; Barbara Marks Hubbard, author and founder of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution; and Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, professor of law, Qur’anic expert, and founder of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.

I had called Fatima, as a stranger, at her home in Providence, RI where she lived with her husband Dr. Anwar ul-Haq Alhady, a tenured professor of political science at Providence University. After hearing my request, she turned to Anwar and said, “I don’t know why but I’m supposed to be at this meeting. I know we set our date to return, but I need to delay a few days.” She arrived with the others through a snowstorm, and her grace, humor, and wisdom infused our days of finding answers on how to build peace through women.

Fatima Gailani, Patricia Smith Melton, multi-cultural womenThe documentary: Eight months later I went into Afghanistan with an all-women crew to document her work and the education of girls and women. The film, “Peace by Peace: Women on the Frontlines,” debuted at UN headquarters in New York in the fall of 2003. It showed women building the social components of peace in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Argentina, Burundi, and the U.S. It aired on PBS television and around the world.

The Gailani compound: When the crew and I flew into Kabul, we were with Fatima on her second return. On landing she was greeted by an entourage with red roses. The Gailani family is revered, and I was to learn that she takes such recognition in stride and with grace.

The family compound where she was raised was taken over first by the Russians who used a large secondary building to hold prisoners and then by the Taliban who used the same building for torture and imprisonment. After the Taliban’s fall the compound was returned to Pir Gailani who used the same building for tribal leaders who were temporarily displaced. They sat in a circle under a large tree Fatima had planted as a girl and told me they became accustomed to women in the workplace during the Communist rule.

Reading Fatima’s comments, keep in mind a woman who combines confidence with a whimsical sense of humor that serves her well in one of the world’s most difficult jobs.

Fatima, was it a decision of your heart or your head to return to Afghanistan?

For me it was not an option. I was forced to leave but every second of my life was to prepare myself so I could come back to help my country. I was so sure I would return that  I would dream about my house in Kabul. I knew the details of the curtains and the chairs    I would buy. My mother would say “Are you crazy? The Russians are there, we are in exile, and you are decorating your house in Kabul!”

Later when I married Anwar, I would tell him about my garden in Jalalabad. At first he thought it was a joke and went sort of “ha ha.” I said, “It’s not ‘ha ha.’ What trees do you want in our garden in Jalalabad?” Anwar said, “Are you crazy? The Taliban are sitting in Kabul. Do you even have a piece of land in Jalalabad?” I said, “No, but I will be having a piece of land in Jalalabad. What trees do you want to plant?” He said, “Thank God we are already married because if we had had this conversation before, I would have thought you were absolutely crazy.” I said, “I am crazy but for my country and I will be going there.”

So we came back and after a couple years my father gave me the most magnificent piece of land in Jalalabad, huge and beautiful, ruined totally of course. It had seven mature palm trees, but nothing else except a panoramic view of the Spin Ghar, the white mountains. Imagine palm trees where your surroundings are mountains full of snow!

Today we have all the citrus trees you can imagine. Two weeks ago we got our first grapefruits, we got our limes from there, we had only six oranges but we will have more.

I knew I would be building things. I knew that I would be working in Afghanistan. The only thing I was praying to God was for health and enough lifetime to return.

Mine Awareness program, Fatima Gailani, Afghanistan, Red Crescent

Fatima leading mine awareness program.

Do I get tired? Yes, and there are times         I miss sitting in a café without being recognized. I miss going to a supermarket, choosing my own fruits. I miss the freedoms one has in the West but I would do it again.     I would come here again – and here I am.

Has the last decade affected your dreams for Afghanistan?

I never thought that I would find a rose garden. When I returned after almost 24 years of war and the Soviet invasion, and fighting over language and ethnicity, a civil war, the competition of Shias and Sunnis, the competition with the neighboring countries . . .        no, I knew I would return to a totally destroyed country.

But did I think that Afghanistan would be in the list of most corrupt countries of the world? Absolutely not. I remember a very clean Afghanistan, people who were so honest. I remember a king who would walk on the streets of Kabul like a Swedish king or a northern European king. So it is devastating to see my country in the list of most corrupt countries. I am devastated we still supply more than 80 percent of the drugs in the world.

I expected the collapse of the juridical system, education system, and health system, which are repairable. But when the morality of a people is destroyed the people have to rebuild it for themselves. These things break my heart. But will I give up? Absolutely not.

What is the relationship of the Red Crescent to the Red Cross?

The Afghan Red Crescent is partially self-funded through vast properties it holds within Afghanistan, while certain projects get additional funding from the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies of different nations in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Some projects are also supported by the International Committee of Red Cross.

     Responsibilities of the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan 

Red Crescent, Afghanistan, Red Cross, Fatima Gailani

Responding to floods in northern Afghanistan

      • Disaster preparedness and response
      • Emergency health care
      • Youth and volunteer training
      • Support for war victims
      • Health services
      • Welfare houses in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, and Jalalabad
      • Dissemination of information on Red Cross and Red Crescent
      • Raising mine awareness
      • Treatment of children with Ventricular Septal Defect (having a hole in their hearts)
Community health programs, Red Crescent, Fatima Gailani, women

Women in health programs

Red Crescent, Afghanistan, Fatima Gailani,

Emergency supplies

What is the initiative for children with holes in their hearts? 

Tens of thousands of children in Afghanistan are born with this condition. Finding out why is the job of the UN and the Ministry of Health, but I found the way that thousands of these children have been sent abroad to be operated upon. These things make me so happy that to be president or a minister or to be in the political wheeling and dealing,  . . .    I don’t think I am interested.

But when I was in your father’s home in 2003 you said you might run for President of Afghanistan. You smiled, but I think you were not completely joking. You asked your brother if he would vote for you, a woman, and he hesitated. 

I don’t know if my brother hesitated about voting for a woman or voting for me, or because he thought if we both ran, I could win.

Under our constitution a woman can run for the presidency, but the reason I don’t want to run for the presidency is not because people will not vote for me. I assure you among the 11 people running for the presidency today – I hope it wouldn’t sound too pompous – but I have much more chance than they have. The reason I don’t want to run for the presidency is, as I said, that I find things more important in my work with the Red Crescent.

Fatima Gailani, Afghanistan, Red Crescent, Media

I remember like yesterday, Patricia, when I came to your meeting and looking outside and seeing the beautiful snow. I called to tell you afterwards that maybe those days in your house changed my life. Well, they did change my life. The future of women became more important for me than my own political future.

Then, in the Red Crescent another eye opener happened. When I came here, it was not only women who live in misery.

461220A huge number of people live in misery, the majority of children live in misery. Sometimes families are cruel to their children. People produce children without any thought and they can’t feed them and send them to the streets so they will be a source of income. We have to rescue these children. This is so unacceptable that changing this is much more important to me than being in politics.

Outside the four walls of my garden or my parents’ garden or my sister’s garden, I see the people’s poverty, their discomfort, and the extraordinarily expensive city that Kabul has become. Afghanistan is too expensive and not affordable for the people of Afghanistan. These are the things that bother me.

Are you in personal danger?

I never have armed guards. I don’t even have guards, I don’t have anyone with weapons around me. I have one person who sits in the car next to the driver without a weapon so if  the car doesn’t work or we’re in a traffic jam, I have someone with me. Yes, I have been twice in great danger and it was from a huge explosion at the Indian Embassy because I live next to the Indian Embassy. Was the target me? Of course not.

In Afghanistan, like in Iraq or Syria or many countries, it is very important that you take precaution. Don’t go unnecessarily to places that are not safe. And if you happen to be in a wrong place at the wrong time, then it is your luck. That is it.

What is Anwar’s position now?

He was Governor of the Central Bank, and then Minister of the Department of Finance, and then Minister of Commerce and Industries. He wanted to run for the presidency, but for whatever political reasons that is not happening. This was sad for me because as the first lady of Afghanistan, I could have done a lot. As President of Afghan Red Crescent Society, I am doing things that are appreciated by the people of my country, but had I been an example for women of Afghanistan as the first lady, I could have changed lots of things for women and children. I could have opened the eyes of women outside my country to see that together we could change the situation of the people, especially of women and children.

If you are serious about changing the situation of women in any country, you have to start with your own family. One reason that in the late king Zaher Shah’s time the situation of women improved was because all the women of the royal family were involved. Princess Belqees was the head of women volunteers and worked with people directly. Her daughter Princess Maryam was a maternity nurse who would go and take the hand of a woman villager giving birth, so changes came faster and were more accepted.

Today the women in their own families are kept locked with the expectation that changes should come through other people’s wives and daughters and sisters and mothers. It cannot work like that. In my family all the men and women are involved in social work.

What will happen in the upcoming presidential elections? 

The candidates are almost equal and are known to the country equally. They are also known equally to the Western media, which makes a huge difference for the outcome. Almost all have worked with the government at a very high post, and they either did well or they did not do well or they could have done better.

Also, lots of military changes are happening but, above all, huge financial changes will happen because lots of people will lose their jobs when the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) run away from the country. Most of the Western barracks of the soldiers will close down, and most of the men and women who work for them will lose their jobs. So we will have a very bad financial shock. This makes it a little bit dangerous. Will the candidates be able to go to the provinces and to the villages? Will they meet with the people directly or introduce themselves only through media?

Do you believe the government needs to be based in religious law?

We have a constitution. You don’t change the constitution every day. It doesn’t happen in other countries and it will not happen in my country. The Afghan constitution is based on Islamic law as it is in many other countries.

If democracy is the rule of people then this is the wish of the people. If you knock at the door of any Afghan person, they will tell you exactly what they want, and this is what they want.

I was one of the commissioners for the constitution. I traveled to five provinces and in every district of that province, a constitution based on Islamic law was what the people wanted. So if we claim that we want democracy, then this is democracy because it is what the people want.

When I was in Kabul twelve years ago most women still wore the burka, but they were organizing, going back to school.

Afghanistan, girl, salute, Red CrescentThe changes for women are a revolution. Millions of educated girls are rising every day. I don’t think anyone could lock these young women up. They are educated, in touch with the people, and don’t like the imported feminism. They have their own feminism with roots in this country. They are very active, and very visible in our parliament, both the upper house and lower house. And they are visible in civil government, and in universities, especially private universities where they are almost 50 percent of each class.

The women are eager to do much better than men because, like anywhere in the world, a woman has to be better than a man to get the same job. You know it is a fact that, with the exception of a few northern European countries, everywhere in the world you have to be much stronger and better than a man to get the equal job.

Has equality come? Not yet. But in the constitution women and men are dealt with equally. On paper, in laws, and in new laws to come the voice of women is being heard. If we are ignored, we make sure we just impose ourselves so we will be equal with all other members of the society.

The burka is not an issue. We want educated women with burka or without burka. If a woman wants to wear a burka, no one should be allowed to tell her not to wear a burka. If she doesn’t want to wear a burka, no one should be forcing her to wear a burka.

We have a new fashion, very elegant outfits, very conservative but beautiful with matching scarves. You will be surprised at the fashion that has come that suits our environment, our religion, and the requirements of our country.

But we hear of terrible things still happening to women. 

Terrible things happen in Kabul and outside of Kabul. They happen because it takes a long time to stop these in any country, but the most important thing is that now people have the courage to report them, to say something wrong has been done to their daughter and they want justice. Instead of being ashamed and killing their daughters to hush up a dishonor, now reporting horrible things that happen to women has become common.

But there is a huge difference between the big cities – Kabul, Mazar, Herat, Jalalabad – and other provinces, districts, and villages. But even in the districts, because of the radio and other information, people know how to report abuses. Nonetheless, bad things happen and we have to find ways to stop them.

Fatima Gailani, ethnic women, Red Crescent, Afghanistan

What is really difficult to accept is that still women mostly don’t get their inheritance rights because, especially outside the cities, the inheritance is land and men are reluctant to lose the power of owning the land of their fathers and forefathers. This is why more than 80 percent of women in villages don’t get their rightful Islamic inheritance as written in the Quran. This should be among the easier things to fix.


Has anything changed regarding the poppy crop?

I don’t know where cultivation has changed or hasn’t changed as this is the responsibility of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics. But in defense of most people who cultivate poppies,  I have been saying for 12 years that our people have very little land, and nothing has been done to educate them not to produce too many children. They have to feed their children and there’s no governmental social welfare to take care of their children. So they cultivate what makes the best profit from their little land. Unfortunately in the majority of places, it is still poppies, even though the poor man who is cultivating them doesn’t get much money.

Rose oil is worth more than opium. Saffron is too, and the saffron of Afghanistan is the best in the world . . . but did we do anything to open a market for it? Did we help the farmers to pack it? Did we help them to collect it? For one or two years farmers grew the saffron, but at the end the farmers had to leave their towns to sell the saffron at a very low price.

That same saffron when it goes across the border is sold at a very high price in the name of Iranian saffron. So very little has been done to help these people to sell their alternative crops. If we help them, I think at least 50 percent of the problem could be solved.

What are you most proud of in your work at the Red Crescent?

Maybe my expectations of myself are a bit too much, as no matter what I do I feel I’ve only fulfilled one of my duties. But I am proud of the comradeship I have created. Most of my employees are much younger, but we can communicate with each other. If they have a critique, they express it openly.

If you have a complaint of your mother, you say “Mother, I don’t like the way you cook your cake. Put in a little more sugar or less sugar” or “I don’t like the topping.” So they tell me how to change things and most of the times because they are connected to regular people, it improves my work, so I am  proud I have that open door with my employees.

A last word?

There is one thing that I am proud of for myself that is not directly to do with the Red Crescent – I have killed the desire of political aims and political gains and political wants that a human being may have. Today I can honestly tell you I have no political ambitions. All I want is to help these people who have no comrades to help them. That’s all I want.

That was not an easy thing. This I am proud of for myself.




Wonder Woman Ballet: whence cometh God?

In the tension between astringent mind and sloppy emotion, I am landing in the slipshod stuff of emotion. That is my selected connection to God – and don’t we all want to be connected to God, don’t we all intuit “home” and miss it?

The poet Jane Hirshfield – we used to be email friends many years ago – called simultaneously seeing and living in both mind and emotion as “double vision,” feeling passion and remaining dispassionate at the same time. She followed Zen and pulls you into the life of a tree or a rabbit or a dog or a jar of jam as though it is the story of all existence right there right then. But it makes me ache, that discipline. I want more. I want to dance and know not that I’m in the thrall of what’s around me but that I am disturbing that thrall. I dance therefore I am.

Wonder Woman, scooter, girl, costume

Wonder Woman on a scooter:
“I’m flying!”

There is nothing like the juxtaposition of the sense of being surrounded by the just-released dancing spirit of your just-deceased (and until then rule-bound) mother and seeing your 4-year-old granddaughter dance her “Wonder Woman Ballet” to understand that there are “more things in heaven and earth, . . .” and so forth than analytical understanding. There is STUFF. There are banana peels to slip on and finger cuts in the kitchen and lost mittens and weather that slams you one way or another. There is love and passion and desire that make you salivate. Your body knows.

And I will meditate, I will take that up again. Heaven knows, my body knows that my mind is cluttered to overflowing, that my dreams are so filled with Bosch-esque images of sight and sound and touch, both good and bad, that no storyline has any hope of shining through, no dream messages have a chance to guide me. Sleep is still assigned as cleaner-upper – which is vital, but meditation is too. When was my mind last clear of want and need and habits and ruts and patterns?  When was my mind empty and light as the air under a bird’s wings?

Yes, I know that being inside passion and being outside as observer contradict. I know that an empty mind is also a portal to the Greater Essence, the thing I’m trying to evoke in my garden where I planted nearly 100 iris bulbs this fall on the theory that gardens are poetry overlaid on Source Emptiness.

Yes, I know that mind stillness and emotions have both separately been embraced as being with God. You do understand here that I’m not even vaguely talking of the costumed creature that religions call God, don’t you?

And don’t talk to me about mind-body balance. Got that half a lifetime ago.

Because there is dancing, wildly without form, that is sometimes called for. Don’t talk to me about Bach and mathematical relationships, not even the Golden Mean. Because there are also supernovas and black holes and the touch of a rose petal and their math is beyond calculation.

Surely my body is fighting now to escape death, to grab the life left of a person with no parents left. Surely that is true. Surely it wants to escape a death of my spirit before the death of itself. Surely that, too, is true. And that involves passion, large passion even about small things.

The intent is not to go splat, I am not self-destructive. The intent is to survive the super-reality that being alive is such a large thing that we all always filter it into bits and pieces so we can have the safety of the illusion that we understand or manipulate our life. If we hear only one note of the symphony, we can feel master of it, fools that we are.

How much energy, how much electricity bursts one’s cells, overcomes one’s rational mind? How much? I have no illusion that I can process the whole symphony, but maybe instead of one note or one instrument I can gain a passage, a measure or two, the high notes of the flute or the vibrations of the cello. Or with luck and trying and persistence maybe sometimes both at once . . .

. . . because that is what processing pain and loss and birth and creation and living here in bodies is about. We cannot know the whole symphony until we can hear more than one thing at a time . . . and somewhere in there passion rises not because we start to understand but because we begin to feel. I trust this impulse even though I feel it could burst open my mind into the terrifying nothingness of salvation.







Once Upon a Funeral

Sheffield, Iowa is the kind of town where when you have a funeral, they serve lunch in the basement of the church afterwards and if it includes an interesting salad, they give you the recipe – and if they leave off an ingredient, someone tracks you down later to tell you to include a cup of glazed walnuts. I might have preferred a funeral with more hair tearing, perhaps professional wailers, but as everyone said, “Your mom had a long and full life.” It was long, certainly – 96 years. I hope she felt it was full. I’m not so sure as others about that.

I am writing in the first few hours I have been by myself in the eleven days since the call came that my mother was suddenly failing. I prefer the word “dying.” She wasn’t failing anything, she was dying quite well.

After the lunch with the delicious salad and your choice of a turkey or ham sandwich and several dishes made with Dream Whip, . . .  oh, first, someone was tracking that there would be a turkey sandwich left for me. They snagged the last one and brought it to me. Who was that? How did word get around that I don’t eat animals with four legs?

After the lunch, my daughter, sister-in-law, niece, and cousin (adopted brother), as the remaining immediate family members, were driven in a white limousine out to the West Fork Cemetery two miles from the farm where I was raised. 2014-01-04 16.03.33The cemetery residents are almost all from families I knew, and it is where my father was buried 26 years ago.

Take the weeded-over trail on the right of the cemetery into the exact middle of that square mile and you come to a deserted house I explored in summertime as a barefoot girl, a house where a white owl once stared me down from atop an abandoned homemade table in the upstairs bedroom.

Four days ago it was 6 degrees below zero at the cemetery. I thought she would be cold. We certainly were. Mom hated the cold.The minister kept the graveside service short, and the cars were kept running as we huddled in parkas and blankets.

2014-01-03 12.00.09

One nice thing was that my cousin/ brother’s remaining siblings (all five of them) came with their families from everywhere, drove across states to be with him, and with us, and with each other. Some cousins I hadn’t seen in decades. Mom was, somehow, the matriarch of the family. (In front sits her youngest brother, the last remaining sibling.)

The next day my daughter and I returned to the cemetery and to the house where I was raised. . . . oh, first, the night before the funeral my daughter went to eat with my niece at the West Fork Wharf (Sheffield’s thriving new restaurant – only restaurant? – in the old bank) and she discovered the waitress is getting married next September in the barn on the farm where I was raised. I love that barn. I cannot tell you enough how I love that barn, its symmetry, its grounded-ness, its purposefulness. Evidently others do too.DSCN21342014-01-04 21.04.33





My counter-life to that in the house was in the barn where wild cats hid their kittens, calves were born, and Rubert the bull tried to get out the window to mate with the cows in the meadow. I watched him from above, in the hayloft. A valiant struggle, but futile.

Once, I stepped into the barn to tell the hay-balers that dinner (the noon meal) was ready when I was hit in the face with a rotten egg thrown at my brother who ducked just as I entered. Sometimes I sat in the upper window of the barn, cradled in the bleakness of adolescence.


Now the barn is being repaired for a fancy wedding, all cleaned up, concrete flooring, new siding. In front, holding planks of wood out of the snow, was my childhood bathtub, the very bathtub I spoke of in my blog on “The Christmas Pageant.”

It was 28 or 29 years since I was last at the cemetery in the snow. Deep snow, at least a foot and a half. My father was determined to show me their newly-placed gravestone, ready and waiting for the time.

I was determined to follow him even without boots. He went ahead of me, blue overalls and blue coat and a red and black plaid wool cap with ear flaps against the white of everything, and as I stepped into his footsteps, I thought, “I will never forget this moment.” And I didn’t forget it so strongly that it was only in the limousine on the way to Mom’s burial that I realized the photograph I thought I had of it was only in my mind.

2014-01-04 16.00.20

Now that they are together again I hope they get on well. In the photographs we did find, ones I’d never seen, Mom was young, laughing, flirtatious, someone different than I knew. Mirthful and playful.

Cascading round and round and down she goes. I loved my mother and have convinced myself she is in a warmer place where she is young, flirting and laughing. The cold cold ground has nothing to do with anything.





Butterflies, or Mom has left the room

Exactly two weeks ago I wrote about my mother in a blog titled When Mom Was My Age. Five days ago I received a call that she was failing and I should fly to Iowa immediately. Three days ago she slipped into another form, the one we cannot really see or know about. The call came moments before I planned to post a blog on butterflies after a visit with my grandchildren to the butterfly house at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. In the preparations for the funeral and the clang of being thrown back into family history, butterflies and life and death have melded in my mind. She was the last member of my immediate family, except for my younger cousin who was raised by my parents and adopted as my brother two years ago. Below is the blog as originally written, with a new poignancy for me:   

butterflyphoto copy 23


Butterflies weigh nothing but you can feel when they land on you, and when they move, it tickles, and when they stay still, there is a microscopic clutch. They make their presence known. Some miracles are like that, and it is difficult to figure out if the miracle is meant for you or randomly distributed and you just happened to be close by.

At the butterfly house you are not supposed to touch the butterflies but the butterflies are allowed to touch you. This is why my grandson held his finger still near one for ten minutes while it slowly made its way to him, finally tentatively touching his fingernail.butterly fingertouch

Butterflies are miracles that are made of transparent colors and they don’t have to walk from here to there. They fly, live off sweets, and bury their heads in flowers – keeping company with their flora kin.

The butterfly that finally touched Ben’s finger flew away shortly after contact. Yet moments later a much larger one landed on his pants and refused to leave. It is the way with some miracles that they are not only unexpected but determined.

photo copy 8photo copy 20

Before they became flying bits of exquisite glistening color, a butterfly is liquid. It is liquid that knew what it was doing inside a chrysalis made by caterpillar that moved on its belly.

The day was a blessing with the grandchildren running from dinosaur skeletons and early sea creatures like the basilosaurus, which is more than 55 feet long, to gem and crystal formations that make humans’ sculptures look like amateur stuff. It was complete with Ben’s getting separated and lost and explaining it all calmly to the security guard, doing exactly as he had been told to do, except for having a side conversation on how rockets work. In any case, I sighted him with the guard from the second story balcony overlooking the giant stuffed elephant.

And then suddenly there was the butterfly house! I had wanted for half a year to take them there and it never happened for so long that I forgot until it was in front of us and together we exclaimed, “The Butterfly House!”

photo 2

Nature’s organic colors never clash with each other because embedded in them is the full spectrum of colors even if we don’t see all of them. Chemical commercial colors are not like this so we experience them clash. I say this by way of saying we can’t see everything. We cannot see the miracles behind what is visible to us that never clash with anything.photo copy 19photo copy black crop







We are always in a miracle, an unexplainable existence of which we can see and process only a sliver at a time. Butterflies give us a glimpse of what we cannot know – transient creatures that they are, born of liquid born of caterpillars that answered their calling.