“Talk about a cliffhanger!” My husband stood by the arcadia door to the back deck looking out on the night.
I was in the kitchen washing the dinner dishes and glancing out my window. A late-Spring rainstorm in the Sierra Nevada was bending the tall trees with its fierce wind and sending volleys of raindrops to hammer the glass panes. “What do you mean, ‘cliffhanger’?” I dried my hands on a towel and walked over to see.
“Poor little guy…doomed to die…look…there, see him?”
“Oh, no!” Near the top the screen door, clinging to the wire mesh, was a gold and black butterfly. Its wings were clasped together like hands in prayer and trying hard to resist the capricious wind that pushed the wings one way then the other as if a cruel invisible hand was trying to force the butterfly to release its hold and fall. I could see the water dripping off his wings. “He’s soaked!”
“Gotta admire his strength–holding on all this time with the added weight of the water. But, he’s doomed. The wind, rain, and gravity will eventually win. He’ll fall on the wet deck and get pounded to death by the raindrops.”
“I’m going to save it!” I started to open the glass door.
He put his hand on mine to stop me. “Butterflies are so fragile and delicate. You will probably injure it severely just trying to pull it off the screen. You’ll just bring it inside and prolong its agony and death.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” I looked around the room and spied the box of kindling. I took a twig out and shook it at my husband. “I’m going to try anyway.”
“Good luck,” he scoffed then looked outside. “The wind’s calmed down for the moment. Now’s your chance. But remember, when the little guy dies that I warned you. I don’t want to listen to you sobbing for the poor thing.”
I opened the glass door, slowly slid open the screen and stepped on to the deck. The wind and rain had indeed calmed for a moment, as if daring me to try and save the doomed creature. I took the dry twig that was no bigger than a pencil, and gently brought it up underneath the butterfly until it touched the body. I waited a few seconds then nudged it up a little more. “Hold to life, little guy, hold to life…come on, climb on the stick…that’s it…show grandpa that you want to live…hold to life.”
Sure enough, it took a patient moment and gentle nudging, but the butterfly climbed onto the twig. I slowly walked back inside and showed my husband.
He chuckled and shook his head. “I don’t believe it. Okay, Dr. Doolittle, now what?”
I spied a flowerpot of soil that I had planted a few seeds in. I stuck the twig in the soil like a little flagpole with the butterfly clinging to the top, its wet wings still clasped together and looking like a tiny golden flag.
“Now, just let him be, and he can spend the night inside.” I went back to finish the dishes.
The butterfly never moved.
Before heading to bed, I asked my husband go out on the deck and bring in the hummingbird feeder.
He complained. “You have got to be kidding! It’s still raining!” But, he did it for me anyway.
I took a capful of the sweet red liquid and offered it to my tiny patient. After a few seconds, the long tongue came out and dipped into the cap a few times.
“No one’s ever going to believe you hand-fed a butterfly!”
The next morning was sunny. The storm had passed and left the forest cool and wet. The sunlight streaming through the window made the butterfly scoot around the twig to better expose his wings to the warmth. Oddly, it still held the wings tightly clasped together. I thought it would spread them wide to absorb more sunlight. I offered the capful of food, and once again, it lapped it a few times.
“You bring the cups and coffeecake, I’m taking him outside.” Carrying the flowerpot to the bistro table, I sat down and patiently waited. While we drank our coffee and ate the cake, the little guy never moved, never opened its wings to the sunlight. “It’s just sitting there, holding tight.”
“Maybe, the beating from wind injured it. Maybe, it can’t move its wings. I’m getting more coffee. Want some more cake?”
“Just coffee. I guess you were right. If he can’t fly, he’s doomed to die, and I just prolonged his death. Poor little guy.”
“At least you saved him from the storm.” He went inside and returned with the coffee then tried to cheer me up. “Don’t look so sad. If he’s to die now, at least he lived to see this beautiful morning. Gotta be a better way to go.”
“Well, it doesn’t make me feel better.”
We were halfway through the second cup of coffee when the butterfly finally spread its wings wide to absorb the sunlight. A moment later, it closed and opened them a few times. Another moment passed then it began fluttering and lifted off the twig. It hovered in front of my face for just a second then flew up and over the roof of the house.
“It’s a miracle!” Hubby exclaimed so sharply that it startled me.
“Go ahead and make fun of it, but at least I saved him!”
“No, I really mean it! It’s a miracle. Granted, it’s just a teeny tiny miracle for a teeny tiny bug, but you did it! By all natural rights, that little guy should be lying dead on the deck. But, YOU saved him and changed the Universe forever.” He stuck his finger in the air, pointing in the direction the butterfly flew. “As a matter of fact from this day forward, I will always believe in magic for I just witnessed one true pure act of magic.”
“All right! Now, you’re making too much of it.”
“No, I’m not, and Dear, please don’t belittle your own magic.”
A few weeks later, we drove down to the river for a picnic. I walked to the bank and saw a flock of twenty or more lavender butterflies no bigger than postage stamps flying and dancing in a little cloud above a blackberry bush. I smiled at their playfulness then sat down on a nice round boulder and stuck my feet in the water to soak the white canvas deck shoes I was wearing. Sierra water is cold, and soon, I had to take my feet out. I sat there with my eyes closed listening to the soothing sound of the river and enjoying all the fragrances that filled the summer air. Suddenly, I felt something tickling my toes. I opened my eyes to see one of the little butterflies on my wet shoe. Its tongue was stuck through the wet canvas. It must have been going for the salty flavor of my feet. Then another one landed, and another and another, until the whole fluttering flock covered the tops and sides of my shoes. I could feel every tickling tongue, as they tasted my feet. Laughing, I wiggled my toes and most of them flew up, hovered then went right back to the shoes.
Just then my husband walked up. “Thinking about taking a dip?” he asked.
“Behold! My magic slippers!”
He saw my feet covered with little fluttering lavender wings. “What the…”
“Behold!” I moved my feet, and they all flew up, hovered then landed again. “How’s that for magic?”
“Now that’s pure magic! They’re probably thanking you for saving their cousin from the storm.”
“They’re probably sucking the salt and oil out of my shoes, and their tongues tickle my toes.”
“There you go, putting down your own magic again. Do you think if I got my shoes wet they would land on them?”
“No, Honey, your feet would make them leave the county.”
Anyway, the whole point to my little story was that the phrase, “hold to life,” stuck with me. A few years later, I began writing my novel, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy and used that phrase in it to confirm the Akoshic belief that all life is sacred, and we should hold onto it tenaciously.
Dear reader, I promise that this story is true and as accurate as we (Hubby and I) can recall the details of it. And, he really does claim to believe in magic now.
Hold to life, dear reader. Hold to life.