Broken Butterfly

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black on 3 November, 2013

The preparations for a northern winter completed, at least for the day, Iris sat in a green striped lawn chair for a rest, enjoying the autumn breeze caressing her cheeks.  Leaves of buttery tones danced in spirals to litter her freshly cleared lawn.  Her black lab, Pookah, merrily caught many of the trees’ falling foliage, jumping in joyful circles. 

Warming rays from an increasingly distant-seeming sun set ablaze a neighbor’s maple tree.  Bright as a cat’s eye reflecting in the night, something fluttered on the ground near a patch of English Ivy.  Crickets chorused as Iris bent to investigate.  She discovered a butterfly flopping about, one wing damaged.  The tragic beauty of the injured insect struck Iris, and she gently scooped it up. 

Cradling the butterfly, Iris entered her red ranch-style home, Pookah capering behind her.  She delicately set the butterfly on an embroidered pillow resting on the window seat of the bay window in her entry hall where the sun could comfort the little creature. 

Iris then went to the kitchen and prepared a simple syrup of sugar and water.  Once it cooled, she ladled some into a small ceramic sauce dish and placed it close to the butterfly and the pillow, in case it was hungry.  Then, she pulled a rocking chair over to the window seat and sat with a book of poetry and read aloud. 

After finishing Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” she looked at her injured companion.  “I wish that I knew what to do to help you, to comfort you,” she said in a whisper, imagining that words from a mouth such as her own, so much bigger than the insect’s ears, must surely boom.  Iris only wished to bring comfort.

“You know, little one,” she quietly said to the damaged bug, “some cultures think that a butterfly is actually a soul.  Are you someone’s soul?  Or am I preventing you from delivering some inspiration, little muse?”

She sat back in the cushion of the rocking chair and read a favorite poem by Robert Frost, “My November Guest,” before she dozed in her chair, lulled by the warmth of familiar surroundings.

Pookah’s whimpering woke his mistress.  Sleep still resting on her head made hazy her comprehension, but when her intellect caught up, Ivy noticed that Pookah’s attentions were on the window seat.  A metamorphosis had taken place while she slept, the broken fritillary changed.  It was still and beautiful, with white-spotted wings outstretched in the sunbeams slanting through the window pane, but its miniscule body was whiter and thinner.  Upon closer inspection, Ivy saw that the insect features were blurred with an alien, somewhat human aspect.

She leaned closer after shaking to clear her head.  The butterfly tilted its head, fearlessly regarding her as well.  Pookah bumped his moist nose into Ivy’s hand, and the butterfly being backed away behind the saucer.  “Down, Pookah,” Ivy said, leaning over the cushion to better regard the butterfly being.  Pookah obliged.

“What on earth?” she wondered aloud, wishing that she had her glasses.  Her eyesight was sketchy at best, and clearly fatigue fogged her sensibilities.  A tinny, accented voice said, “Or not on earth.”  It was the butterfly creature who spoke, Ivy was certain.

She nodded toward it, asking, “Who are you?”  “Alva,” came the slightly metallic-sounding reply.  Ivy asked if Alva was well or in need of anything.  “You have been most kind,” Alva replied, “and thank you, but I must take my leave.” 

Ivy sat back on her heels, color rising in her cheeks.  She did not wish for a reward, but she did need to understand something.  She took a deep breath, then in measured, quiet words, she addressed Alva.  “You know, I have long believed in you creatures.  I have looked for you in mushroom rings and fields of clover.  I visited standing stones where giants danced.  Why would I see you now, when I am old and no longer lovely?”

Alva stood on a slender leg, reaching tooth-pick thin arms over her antennae’d head.  With a shrug of silvery shoulders, Alva replied, “not lovely?  By what standard?”  Leaning forward to better regard Ivy’s aging face, Alva continued, “I see beautiful.  Beautiful is a heart filled with experience that does not tarnish enthusiasm.  It is a joyful demeanor and a willingness to help others, with no wish for reward or recognition.  I see self-less service, wise eyes, and a body meant to comfort.  I see beauty.”  Alva bowed toward Ivy. 

Ivy sat back on her aching legs, a half smile across her face.  “Flatterer,” she said, but she opened the window to release a mystical being from her deepest girlhood imagination before returning to her over-stuffed rocking chair to read Robert Frost’s first published poem.