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August 2000 Edition

This First Edition of Anecdotes
Is Dedicated to the Memory of
Ginny Goodrich
And the Wonderful Way She Knew Animals

A Voice in the Silence of Wings

~ Driving on a back highway, I saw a butterfly hit the windshield of a car in front of me. Something, a silent voice, compelled me to turn around, and go find that creature. Amazingly, easily, I located the pipevine swallowtail. With wings terribly tattered, he would not live long. But he was still very beautiful, with turquoise metallic hind wings; he would make a magnificent addition to my collections of stones and feathers and shells.

But a question presented itself: What was "long" to a butterfly's life? A few minutes in flight could be eternity; ecstasy, not measurable. So I held up my hands toward a nearby woods to release him. But instead of flying to the sanctuary of trees, the swallowtail headed over my shoulder, back toward the road.

wpe1D.jpg (13144 bytes)My heart sank, but I resolved not to interfere. With a sigh, I climbed back into the car and headed home. Suddenly, a tickle on my arm revealed that the butterfly had flown, not over my shoulder, but onto it, so light, his presence had been overlooked! Now he was exploring, walking down my arm. Once in the protection of the back yard, I offered him freedom, but he chose to remain with me as I went inside.

The children admired the delicate, colorful visitor, and youngest son Noahh came and sat with us, as butterfly opened his wings in a strange dance of life and death. For hours, we communed, and I watched so I could remember always his face, his wings, his legs.

At the nearby university, I had seen butterflies like him on the Joe Pye weed; we would go there. I held out my palm and he climbed back on. But outside, he floated to the grass. "Won't you go with me to the garden?" I asked.

The butterfly lifted one leg and set it on my finger, then withdrew it; then returned the leg, then again moved away, hesitating. Weary, he lay his tiny, spotted head on my palm. How do I describe how heavy a weight I sensed?

The iridescent swallowtail remained in the grass, as we left for an appointment. When we returned, I expected our visitor would be gone, lifted by winds. But unlike most butterflies I had seen, he had chosen to die with his wings open, pinned among the grasses. He would remain with me always.

Placing him on soft swans' down in a tiny pygmy-woven basket, I sang and wrote poems as eulogies. Then, seeking to comprehend "logically" the connection I had felt, I assumed that the pipevine swallowtail had perceived me as a flower, for that is what attracts butterflies. What a revelation, to finally understand that he knew me, not as a flower, but as myself, a friend; a kinship, acknowledged in the compassion that flowed.

-Sue Holloway

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Getting a taste of God's creation as it should be!

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