I have a broken butterfly. Four wings she has but two are torn. She is flaky and dry. Her legs have folded in and under. What once must have looked like the crafted panes of bright orange window glass on veined wings are now faded, scuffed and inglorious.
But didn’t she too fly once? Wasn’t she brilliant, young and whole?
My neighbor spotted her first as we walked. She had found another one last week, dead, but still perfect for a wreath. “Here’s another,” she said today bending to pick her up. But this one was too damaged, marred and old to be displayed or kept so she put her down.
“She’s still beautiful,” I said, noticing one angle where she looked mostly whole.
“You keep her,” she said and I bent to pick her up.
I was a broken butterfly with wings that worked but afraid to fly. It seemed I hid under blankets, held tight to things, clenched in upon myself while my eyes darted searched for openings in windows, doors and books. I needed to pollinate on hope. I was incubating and ashamed of my weakness, lack of mobility or daring. I didn’t see how I was building courage and that even fearful things can be transformative and beautiful.
I was slow to venture out. I had been alive for decades but not truly living. I let the warm of the sun bake me from the safety of my back porch, started to watch the rain fall while leaning over the back of my couch. I joined my daughter doing puddle jump dances in the street. Eventually, alone I went to the end of the street where I could walk the beach and hunt sea glass.
It’s hard to remember being afraid as I soar through wind and the rain. I open my mouth to taste the snow. Grass growing under my bare heels and toes. I look down on landscapes from mountain tops where I have climbed embracing love without certainty or promises of forever.
This butterfly now in the palm of my hands is dead but I can feel her soft still wings. Antenna are dried and folded backwards down her head, thorax and abdomen. White spots stand out among the edges of black.
She will not be crunched under careless foot – this corpse of beauty, this memory of my former self. I will place her outside on the purple bloom of my butterfly bush. I picked her up to let her go and placed her high so she could be at home to fold back into herself.
Her soul like mine, hovering over us and free.