random thought: butterflies

Butterfly garland, photographed with Nikon D300 and 35 mm lens.

(Update: To hear and see this post, click here.)

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving my favourite coffeehouse, a butterfly flew in front of my path, nearly landing on me. I stopped to watch it, but instead of fluttering off, it continued to swoop around me, circling my head, my chest, my legs. It did this for a while -- about 15 seconds or so, what felt like ages -- and then it started to fly ahead of me a bit, so I continued to walk slowly. But the strange thing is that it never darted off like I expected it to; instead, it almost hovered, always a few steps ahead of me, as I very, very carefully made my way down the sidewalk.

After 3 or 4 steps I stopped again, watching it. It hovered in front of me for a moment.

And then, out of nowhere, another larger, but otherwise identical butterfly appeared right next to it, and the two butterflies circled each other, almost like dancing.

And then suddenly, they flew away.

I walked more quickly toward my car, one part of me thinking I'd witnessed something meaningful, the other more rational, more analytical part of me convinced that I was being silly, that it was nothing more than a coincidence: I'd just happened to see two butterflies looking for fragrant flowers, in search of nectar.

A few days later I was sitting in my back garden with my friend, Twyla. As we talked, a butterfly flew very close to her, circled her head and flew away.

"Wow!" I said, somewhat surprised.

Twyla smiled calmly. "It's my mother," she said.

"Really? Is that what they say?"

"Well, yeah, that's what they say," she said, shrugging. "That butterflies that come near you are really the spirits of people who've died, but who continue to look out for you."

I thought of the two butterflies that had flown in front of me. And I remembered my father telling me that in the days before my grandmother died a couple of months ago, she had said to him, "As soon as I go to heaven, I'm looking for Henry" -- my grandfather, and her husband for over 50 years. He died back in 1989.

What if ...

... anyway, I've always loved butterflies. There's something about metamorphosis, and rebirth, and renewal, and emerging stronger, more beautiful, and more powerful than ever that intrigues me about them. And so late last week, when I saw a garland of beautiful paper butterflies in a local Hallmark store, I couldn't resist.

These butterflies now hang in a window in my office. It just feels like I need them there.


Song: Butterfly by Corinne Bailey Rae