Migrating butterflies. When I was sixteen, before I had moved out of my mother’s house, there were two memories of delicate wings that I can see as clearly as the day I bore witness to nature’s brilliance.
The first time I saw the yellow butterflies migrating, I grieved. Their migratory path took the delicate insects across a busy stretch of highway. One of many I’m sure. The road was yellow with their crushed bodies. The front of my mother’s green Ford Explorer was covered with butterfly gore. Some made it through to the other side due to timing, catching the right updraft, it’s hard to say. Probably luck was on their side.
The traffic was relentless and indifferent to the butterflies. Car after car tore into the kaleidoscope mercilessly. The butterflies kept going. There is something helplessly sad watching tiny, delicate, beautiful insects dessimated in moment shorter than a breath.
I grieved for the dead.
The second time I saw them that summer, I was sitting on the wooden steps outside the rental house mother’s boyfriend had found. I was slipping inside myself. Nothing made sense anymore. Mother had found another man who would save her from her life. I was wary of him despite being admonished for my wariness. I would be leaving that place soon, by my own hand or some other intervention I did not yet know.
I remember feeling incredibly, profoundly sad and then I remember seeing the butterflies speckle the air. They looked like pieces of paper sunshine scattered in the wind. First a few, then a whole kaleidoscope. It lasted several minutes. I remember feeling hope stir. I clung to the inspiration and simple elegance of the butterflies.
I longed to go with them.
I left my mother’s home within a short time of seeing the butterflies. I find I relate to them now. They are delicate and small and beautiful. They can be crushed by clumsiness, recklessness, ignorance. They migrate because they must. It is not an easy path to even become a butterfly. Surviving from egg then to worm, to cocoon, and finally an intricate creature given wings.
It is difficult to accept that we are fundamentally different from who we were. It is difficult to accept that we are delicate like a butterfly.
Perhaps I am not just one butterfly.
Perhaps I am a kaleidoscope of butterflies.