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:
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.