She was torn and battered. Gaping holes completely filigreed one of her wings, with bits missing from the other one as well. And still, she flew.
She had stopped to rest on the petals of a flower, but kept her tattered wing shards moving ever so slightly in the sun. I watched and held my breath – at first, in fear for her. And then, in awe of her.
I’m not sure what had caused the damage. A predator, most likely. I didn’t want to think about that. I wanted only to admire her.
Once, her beauty must have been so perfect – as all perfectly beautiful butterflies are – perfect color, perfect design, perfect delicacy. Yet here she was, patterns broken, colors jagged-edged, delicacy tragically exposed. And still, she flew.
I wondered if she could sense the places torn away. If she felt the phantom memory of what had been lost. If she could see her own ghost image in her shadow. I suspect she did not. Because still, she flew.
She seemed to maintain a sense of self that overcame any idea of raggedness or self-pity. She was courage itself, and strength and brilliant grace. She seemed to sit there simply celebrating the sun and shade and breeze to carry her forward. Adjusting to her wings as they now were – not as they had once been.
And then she flew. She left the flower. Left my view of her. Left her lessons for me to fold into myself – to touch and turn over in my mind and heart for a long time afterward. Even now I think of her whenever I feel ashamed for some lack of gratitude, or embarrassed for a black hole of fear ready to overtake me. But I doubt she came to rest there just to chastise me; perhaps it was to example for me. Or, more likely, it wasn’t about me at all.
And yet, whenever I need her, she still comes to me in flashes of insight. She nudges beneath my heart, and flutters somewhere in the back of my mind. She tells me to have faith in my wings. To ignore the holes and torn parts and missing bits. To overcome my fears. To celebrate the joy. To hold fast to the wonder. And to fly.
I know that butterflies live here on earth with us for only about a week at best. A few days of loveliness and fulfillment, and then they are gone. I hope that most of them enjoy a life of stillness and sun-filled hours in peaceful gardens and quiet gentle nights under the stars.
I suspect that this one, however – my butterfly with the broken wings – will flutter to her destiny at the very last minute, barely making it on the exhale of a summer sigh, full of memories and life experiences, wisdom and compassion.
She will be dragging her wings behind her, carrying her beauty in every scar and tear and crumpled bit left of her. She will look herself over carefully, see where she’s been, what she’s done, who she’s loved. She will remember all the kind and terrible things in the world. And she will remember flying. Most of all, I think, she will remember flying.
And then, with a nod and a wink to God, I expect she will whisper: “Wow … what a ride!”
In the end, may it be so for us all.