San Miguel de Allende, Writings

A lesson from the butterfly’s second life

Butterflies are one of the “two sweetest passions known to man.”

So says Vladimir Nabokov. The other is literature.

A day watching butterflies flutter amid the flower boughs

Never feels misspent.

Nor does a day with a good book.

Literature lasts forever. No so, the butterfly.

So precious because these fragile angels pass so quickly.

One day, they are weaving light and color with their wings.

The next, you are gently lifting their inert bodies,

Ripe with sadness. The sweetest passion extinguished.

Butterflies remind us of life’s great beauty

But also of its all-too-brief span.

This morning, sighs from Rose and Imelda wafted upstairs.

Clearly, something had saddened them both.

Later, I saw Imelda gently cradle the butterfly in her hands

And place it on the sunny ledge of the fountain.

The light still played upon the iridescent wings.

It looked as if it were merely recharging,

Ready to flutter up and alight upon the cascading bougainvillea.

No, all that remained was a reminder of life’s brevity.

Imelda plucked a bloom from the birthday bouquet she gave Rose.

And so lovingly placed before the kitchen window,

Her tribute to the butterfly’s beauty, to its too-short life.

I’ll be honest. It took my breath away.

To me, the end is the end.

I see no beauty nor lessons when it comes.

Imelda taught us a wonderful lesson today.

We can’t beat death. But we can refuse to submit to its tyranny.

Fight death with beauty.

Like good literature, even the mariposa

Can cheat death. For a while longer.

++++++++ +++++++++ ++++++++

Dedicated to my friend and one-time neighbor Larry Caudillo who, like the butterfly, just passed away. All too suddenly and all too soon.


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