The Man Who Befriended Butterflies

images One afternoon, many months ago, I was sitting in a chair on the lawn in my backyard. The sun was gradually turning the pigments in my bare chest a reddish-brown-color. I sat with my head rested against the back of the chair and my eyes closed. On that particular afternoon I remember feeling relatively peaceful. The chronic stream of negative thoughts that normally afflicted me were not present. I was not worried about money or all the things that I needed to take care of but was procrastinating on. Instead I allowed myself to surrender to resting under the afternoon sun.

As I sat there thinking about nothing in particular, I remember feeling a slightly odd sensation in the palm of my hand. I lifted one eye half-open and noticed a brown and tan butterfly perched in my palm. I opened both eyes to get a better look. For a moment I was afraid that my surprise would startle the butterfly and cause her to fly away. I wanted her to stay. I remember saying to myself: “be calm, breathe slowly, let the butterfly feel that you are a friend.”

I said a few words out loud to the butterfly: “Hey little lady. You sure are beautiful. Thank you for gracing me with your tiny presence.” As I spoke I moved my unclenched hand closer and closer towards my face. I wanted to see if I could look directly into the butterfly’s eyes. I admired the beautiful textures that decorated her fragile wings. I noticed two nodules that looked like lollipops sticking out from the butterfly’s forehead. Just below the nodules I noticed her miniscule eyes that seemed to be looking straight up at me. The butterfly was as curious of me as I was of it. Its eyes looked at me in the same way one looks at a friend. I smiled at her and she immediately blinked back at me. I believe it was from that moment on that I was forever changed.

I have always been known to mess things up. In high school my father called me the “messer upper.” I seem to mess up almost everything I touch. I have destroyed almost every opportunity that has come my way. Some people who know me well tell me I have a fear of success. I just think I am not very good at being an adult. At least I thought this way until the butterfly came and perched in the palm of my hand.

Every afternoon after that first encounter with the butterfly I would go outside, sit in the exact same spot and see if the butterfly would come visit with me. Sure enough, within a minute of sitting down in the chair the butterfly would come and sit with me. She would land on my shoulders or head or hand. Once she even landed on top of my heart. We would spend an unknown period of time together and then when she had her fill of me she would fly away.

Over the course of our first week together the butterfly would gradually bring a few other butterflies a long with her. It was as if she told some of her friends that she had met this nice guy whom she wanted them to meet. First there would only be two or three butterflies that would come a long with her. Then there would be four, five, six. And then well into the second week there would be dozens of her friends. They would leap around on the various parts of my body as if I was some kind of playground equipment. I had never seen such beautiful coloring. Every color imaginable was represented on the wings of the butterflies. I had once been a painter and was very aware of how difficult it was to achieve these bright and brilliant hues. Nature’s genius seems to render most artwork mediocre at best.

I would carry on conversations with the butterflies. When they had enough of me they would fly away in unison as if they were all given the same command by a central headquarters. As the butterflies flew away I would thank them for their time and then walk back inside. I felt overcome with appreciation and joy. It was as if I had been chosen by the butterflies and I could not figure out why. But being chosen provides a person with a feeling that they are indeed someone special and this feeling of being special seemed to diminish my negative feelings about myself. For the first time in my life I did not feel like a mess.

As the weeks passed more and more butterflies would come and play around on me. I am unaware as to what kind of butterflies these were but they all looked so different. Their wings moved like skilled ballerinas and when they landed on my bare arms, chest, legs and face they were careful not to cause even the slightest pinch. Their fragility and care with me brought tears to me eyes. I could not remember the last time I was treated with such care by any human being.

If my neighbor was to look over the fence that divided our yard what he would of seen would of looked like a scene right out of a magical realist film or novel. I was completely covered in a plethora of colorful butterflies. Even though my face was obscured by the butterflies if my neighbor looked closely enough he would have noticed a large smile on my face. I had never been happier.

One afternoon while the butterflies covered me I decided that I wanted to see if they would come home with me. I wanted to fill my bedroom with butterflies. So I did what I had never done before when covered in butterflies- I began to move. I slowly stood up. As I did this I noticed that a few timid butterflies flew away but the majority of them stayed with me. I moved slowly so as not to scare any others off. As I walked towards my house I noticed that all the butterflies were staying with me. It was as if the butterflies did not want to let me go. As I arrived at my back door I made a ti-chi like movement with my arm so I could carefully open the door. I then walked through my kitchen, down the narrow hallway and into my bedroom. Carefully I shut the door behind me and then sat down onto my bed.

There were butterflies on my head, eyelids, nose, lips, shoulders, arms, chest, neck, legs and feet. I was a human butterfly blanket. While sitting on the side of my bed I remembered a dream that I often had when I was a kid. In my dream I would be sitting up in my bed watching hundreds of different colored butterflies fly around in my room. This memory caused a tingling sensation to shoot up my spine. Almost all of the dreams and ambitions that I had as a child have not become a reality in my adult life. I had had to accept that more often than not dreams remain dreams. But as I sat on the side of my bed I was realizing that for the first time in my adult life one of my dreams was turning into a reality. I was actually filling my bedroom with butterflies.

For the next few days I would go into my backyard, sit in the same spot and collect more butterflies. Dozens would immediately fly over to me in the same way a toddler would take a leap into their parent’s arms. It was as if the butterflies felt that I offered them the same kind of salvation that they were offering to me. I would thank all of the butterflies for congregating all over my body and then very slowly I would walk into my house and bring them into my bedroom. After a few days of this my bedroom was like a butterfly forest. Even better than that- the butterflies had transformed my ordinary bedroom into alternate universe.

I remained in my bedroom for days with the butterflies. I would lie on my bed, with my hands folded behind my head and watch the butterflies dance around my room. The butterflies covered every inch of ceiling, wall, floor and the entire space in-between. Purples, reds, blues, oranges, greens, yellows and brown colors palpitated in the air. This is what I imagined an LSD trip must be like. At night when I slept I would not need to warm myself under the blankets. Instead the moment I turned out the lights the butterflies would cover my entire body like a blanket. Feeling the butterfly’s pulsations would lull me into a deep sleep.

Those few days in my bedroom with the butterflies are worth more to me than anything I could ever own. The butterflies helped me to believe that I was no longer a mess waiting to happen. Instead I felt like a sense of magic that gets blurred out by negative thinking had returned to me. The butterflies showed me that there was so much more to life than what I had come to believe was true.

I believe it was on the morning of the third day that I realized I would have to let the butterflies go. I knew they would not be able to survive in my room for much longer. I wanted to keep them in my room but I knew that if I did it would be a very selfish act. I had to let them go. I opened my bedroom window and like air from a balloon they all swarmed out. I watched them fly through the trees, across the street and towards the distant horizon. After all the butterflies had left I shed a few tears, closed my window and turned around to go sit on bed.

As I turned around I noticed that there was one butterfly that had remained behind. She was perched on the nightstand besides my bed. I felt what I can only describe as joy begin to flood into my chest. It was who I hoped it was- the brown and tan butterfly who I had met on that peaceful afternoon many, many weeks ago. I reached out the palm of my hand and immediately she came and rested in it. I then lay back on my bed with her in the palm of my hand. I looked at her in the eyes and told her I was so happy she stayed.

I decided to keep the butterfly in my room. I have done some research on Google and learned about what she needs to survive. She seems happy in my room. Every night before bed she will fly skillfully around my room. Watching her delicate movements will lull me into a deep sleep. During the day she hangs out on my head or shoulder as I read a book. I am now more satisfied than I have ever been in my life. Who would have ever thought that all it would take was befriending a butterfly.

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