Black Spots & Twitching Wings
I had an early doctor’s appointment this morning, and the sun rose just before I left the apartment to get to the bus stop. While walking through the apartment complex, I almost stepped on something small laying in the middle of the sidewalk; I noticed it just as my right foot was about to hit the pavement. I stepped inward at the last moment and barely missed crushing it.
And I was instantly glad I did–it was a monarch butterfly, its wings both flat on the ground, one on top of the other. Fully colored: vivid orange with lots of tiny black spots and very long, black antennae. It must have been rather large for my dim eyes to notice such detail. As soon as I wondered whether it was dead, the wing on top started twitching. Recovering from a fresh emergence or from a chance encounter with something fatal? Dying after a full summer of searching for a mate and having either exulted success or disappointment? Or just resting in an odd position?
Do butterflies sleep? We know they hibernate and metamorphize, but do they transfer pollen and collect nectar at night? Whatever the answers to all these squiggly lines, I chose to let it alone, to leave it be, its wing still twitching away. I hoped it survived, or, at the very least, I hoped some toddler with an attentive guardian got some sort of awed and reverent lesson on nature from it.
All thoughts of butterfly passed cleanly through my head as I continued onward. Until several hours later when I returned on that same sidewalk. I watched the butterfly fly from ground level toward me, behind me, and then ascend until it was far above the buildings around me, a perfectly healthy specimen of its race with no limp in its flight. I didn’t actually see it lift off the ground, mostly because I wasn’t looking for it, but it’s almost as if it got out of its seat as I entered the room. Why did it choose that particular moment to take off? Did I startle it? Was it waiting for me?
Perhaps it’s some metaphysical manifestation of my baby. Or maybe I’ve got a guardian butterfly, and it was just making sure I made it home safely today.