Flying Wounded

Originally posted Oct. 20, 2016

For Houston, autumn does not come like a thief in the night. It comes like a late train as you eagerly check your watch, pace the platform, and pretend you're not waiting for it. Earlier in this mid-October week, I sat outside at 8:30, enjoying a cup of coffee, the 70+ degree morning, and a birdfeeder partially full of seeds but bereft of birds. The high was going to be 90 that day, so nature was not cooperating as I would have liked.

Still, it was hard not to appreciate the monarch butterfly on my milkweed plant. Being, as I mentioned, bereft of birds, I gave it my full attention. It had the wingspan of a baby sparrow, and each of its delicate, burnt-orange panels was outlined by black curves, giving them the look of stained glass windows. The creature flew to one orange and yellow bud, then took off in a vaunted half-circle over the patio, before landing on another bud not too distant from the first one. I couldn't guess its strategy, but I did notice that its glorious wings were not as perfect as they could be. On the lower part of the right wing, a small pane had been punched out, letting the sunlight through. 

I would like to say it reminded me of a Bible verse, but I was reading Oliver Twist at the time and pondering how such a maltreated orphan could grow up without serious emotional scarring. Would the adult Oliver shun human affection, since he had received none as a child? Would he struggle with trust? Would he sneer at the whole idea of church "charity"? Probably. What then? The butterfly was living with part of its wing punched out. On closer inspection, it's likely that most butterflies have something wrong with them. But still they pollinate and bless morning coffee-drinkers. 

We all have scars. Some of us have deep, deep scars that will attend all our days. So what? We're still alive. We can still fly. And whatever the human equivalent is of pollinating, we can still do it.  Wait, I have a Bible verse. Here it is: Don't be afraid. You are worth more than many butterflies.*

Matthew 10:31, sort of.