It is easy to coax a dying or exhausted butterfly onto your finger. I saw a monarch walking across a gas station lot; it was walking south. I placed my index finger in its path, and it clambered aboard and let me lift it to my face. Its wings were faded but unmarked by hazard; a veneer of velvet caught the light and hinted at the frailest depth of lapped scales. It was a male; his legs clutching my finger were short and atrophied; they clasped my finger with a spread fragility, a fineness as of some low note of emotion or pure strain of spirit, scarcely perceived. And I knew that those feet were actually tasting me, sipping with sensitive organs the vapor of my finger's skin: butterflies taste with their feet. All the time he held me, he opened and closed his glorious wings senselessly, as if sighing.
I love this image of Dillard holding the dying monarch. The slow flutter of its wings. Orange. Black. Sun. Orange again. Like breathing or sipping water. Slowly. As if the butterfly is contemplating its life, the quality of light and air and wind. Whatever fills butterfly senses with happiness or sadness, if butterflies experience those kinds of emotions. Perhaps it's just about pleasure and non-pleasure. I don't know.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the quality of my life. Maybe an unhealthy amount of time. Certainly, as a Christian, I'm supposed to focus on the present. Like the butterfly, I should accept the blessing of warmth or sunlight or a good meal. All the pleasures of a day. The future is something I have little control over. That's where God comes in. Sure, I can apply for a promotion or hope for a salary raise or submit a packet of poems for publication. But, the promotion or raise or publication--those are beyond my control. Those are God things.
Perhaps I'm naive in believing that things always happen for a purpose. That I'm in my current job because that's where God wants me to work. That I'm living in my neighborhood because that's where God wants me to live. It gets a little harder when it comes to things like my sister's death. I have to believe there's a reason why that happened. Now, will I ever understand the "why"? Maybe. More likely, though, is that I will never understand.
Living in the moment. That's what it's all about. The past can't be changed. The future is beyond my control. So, I'm just going to climb on God's hand, cling to His finger, and taste. Breathe. Sigh. Enjoy myself.
Saint Marty is spreading his wings.