The Butterfly Effect

It flittered right passed me as if it didn’t see me. As if I didn’t even matter.

Just this past Sunday as I stepped out of my car—after returning home from church—a familiar friend passed me by: a little, yellow butterfly. I see him every year. I know who he is. I look forward to his arrival. But, I have to admit, it felt like it had been too long between visits, and I have missed him.

Before some of you get the wrong idea, let me explain. I know it’s not the exact same yellow butterfly that dances about my house every year (even though it is). I also know that every year, in the spring, one, lone yellow butterfly spends its free time moving about my neighborhood (even though it probably is not just one—but it is). I also know that I have wanted to catch that fellow every year that he appears (even though I never do). And, finally, I know that one day—eventually—I will catch that guy (even though I won’t).

I have chatted with some neighbors that have also spotted the yellow butterfly. They too seem to only spot just the one. They too look forward to its appearance every year. They also know that it is not the exact same one (even though it is—I know what I wrote). Still, it is one of the staples of the neighborhood. However, during the past several years, I have not seen it (I have not been outside as much as I used to be). In fact, I forgot all about it—until Sunday. Then, suddenly, as if no time had ever passed, as if two old friends met after an extended separation, there he was… flying along. Almost as if we had never been apart. And, along with his return, came a flood of memories. Thank you, Mr. Yellow Butterfly.

When my children were young, and my eyesight was better, and my hands were more dextrous, I used to craft fairies for my wife. I would use small, pewter figurines, and the wings of insects. Preferably, I would use dead ones. But, if I found an opportunity for a nice set of wings flying past—and I could catch them, I would use those. Both bring challenges. If the bug is already dead, decay and whatever else may not always provide quality, fully intact, wing sets. On the flip-side, if the bug is alive (and not a pest bug), I gotta kill it (pest bugs are easier to terminate).

At some point, my children became involved with helping me hunt butterflies for their wings. We would search the grounds of the local park, we would also search the skies of the local park. And, once in a while, we would try and capture the yellow fellow that drifted about our yard—he teased us every year. Sometimes, while we were working in our yard, if we could spot the butterfly in flight—before it reached our property, I would call for one of my children to run into the house and grab my net. Inevitably, by the time the net was outside and in my hand, the butterfly would be gone. It became a sort of game for us. We never really expected to catch the butterfly, but the attempt to do so was always exciting. More than once we came awfully close… Too close for comfort on the butterfly’s end, I’m sure.

Regardless, for many years our summer days were spent at a local park, sitting, playing, and waiting for the odd butterfly (or white moth) to drift by. Once they did, the family would spring into action, someone would grab the net, another would collect the jar, others would just follow along. We would run and jump over the small stream that ran the length of the park, dodge the other children and parents trying to have their own sorts of fun, while we did what we could to catch those butterflies. Always on the lookout—especially—for a yellow-winged butterfly. Those wings were intended to be for the queen—if ever caught.

I never got bored of strangers judging my parenting (I found it funny). I would get the evil eye from some people thinking I was the worst human being on the planet because my children were trying to catch a defenseless butterfly. First off, they’re not defenseless. They can fly—high. I can’t fly—under my own power. Also, they are fast. Physicsly (I know what I wrote), because they are smaller than a human, they are innately faster than us. And ‘C’, my children were not that fast and their hand-eye coordination was not perfected enough for catching butterflies—until it was. A first, it was just miss after miss. Eventually, however, they were catching them left and right. We would put them in the jar, look them over, talk about what we had caught, and then ultimately decide they were not good enough (slight damage to the wings maybe, too small, not the right color, etcetera) and let them go free. We all had a great time of it

The bug jar, made from a Vlasic Pickle jar and hemp string.
It hangs near a window in my studio.

Some of the best memories—that I had somehow forgotten about—were those summers, at a park, chasing butterflies for my wife, with my children. And honestly, I hadn’t thought about it in years. To the point where you could consider it forgotten. Which is strange because the jar hangs by my studio window, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t look at it. I guess somewhere, over the years, I had begun to only look at it, instead of seeing it. My butterfly net sits in the corner awaiting its next big adventure—who knows when that will ever be. Still, I am glad for that time. It was a grand time.

Thank you, Mr. Yellow Butterfly.

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