“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly – Hans Christian Anderson

She was no bigger than the nail on my little finger. A tiny bit of winged life. I found her floating on the surface of the water in the dog’s drinking bowl. She was pale and ghost like, wings spread in perfect symmetry.

I dipped my finger in to lift her out ­– more to clear the water than anything else. Then I saw how truly beautiful and perfectly formed she was. An incredibly lovely miniature likeness of a butterfly or moth.

I decided to lay her out to dry and look more closely at her. As I breathed gently on her, her almost infinitesimal legs began to stir. One of her wings struggled and shook. She was still living.

I took her outside and placed her on the leaf of a rosebush, and she became even more animated. Within a few minutes, she had dried, rested, and flown free.

I wondered how long she had been floating there. And if she felt afraid as she lay trapped and helpless. Or perhaps she hadn’t even realized she was dying. I don’t actually know if she was a she.

A lot of supposition to place on one tiny winged creature.

But it wasn’t much later that same day that Joe came. Joe takes care of my lawn when it gets out of hand or becomes more than I have time to manage. Joe is very detail oriented, and whatever he does is intentional.

When Joe had gone, I noticed he had left my front gate open. Not by mistake. It was, as I said, obviously “intentional,” propped open. Something I never do. But it made me wonder why I always have kept it closed, kept it latched. Perhaps because it looks pretty that way. But functionally, it serves no purpose. Like a butterfly floating on the surface of water.

I have great faith in the connectedness of all things. That we are all given signs and lessons and messages and hugs and raps on the knuckles from a very caring universe at all times and under all circumstances. If we just pay attention.

As I walked out to the front gate and started to close it, I thought about the tiny butterfly of that morning. Perhaps there was a message that God and the universe wanted me to see and know and embrace that day. Something about being released and opening gates and removing barriers. Perhaps something about being free.


In the end, instead of re-closing my front gate, I placed a potted flower in front of it – just to make sure it stays open and hospitable and freedom-encouraging.

And then, remembering the words of Hans Christian Anderson, I propped open the side gate, too:

 “Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly,” one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.“