In this excerpt from Angels in Disguise, a grieving woman's heartache is soothed by a butterfly.
Posted in , Feb 2, 2014
I huddled miserably in my porch chair, staring out across the rain-drenched fields. A few days earlier, a car accident had taken the life of someone I cared about. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it had been raining for more than a week, and my soul felt as dreary and gray as the weeping sky.
From inside the house, the telephone shrilled a summons and I rose to answer it. As I spoke to the caller, I let my gaze wander around the room. To my surprise, I noticed a large black butterfly perched on the screen of one of the open windows. Hoping not to frighten it away, I tiptoed quietly to the window and studied my visitor.
It was a beautiful specimen. There were powder-blue markings on the topsides of the broad, dark wings, and pale orange blotches on the undersides. Curiously, the butterfly uncurled its long proboscis to probe the fingertip I offered.
When my phone call ended, I turned all my attention to the lovely creature. “What are you doing here?” I whispered. The butterfly daintily explored the screen, placing its feet carefully at the edges of the tiny openings. It seemed in no hurry to leave, and indeed appeared to be taking notice of me.
After what seemed like a long time, it fluttered its wings and lifted off. The papery rustle of those lovely wings sounded like music to me, and I realized that for a brief time, I had forgotten the ache in my soul. Then it came crashing back, like relentless waves on the ocean shore, and I returned to my chair on the porch.
A hummingbird feeder hung a few feet from where I sat, and busy hummers buzzed all around it. The rain hadn’t dampened their spirits, and they squabbled noisily around the nectar ports. Normally I would be laughing in delight at their antics, but now I watched them through a haze of tears. Blurry little birds dipped and whirred, and I wondered if these tears would ever stop.
Abruptly, the phone rang again. I sighed and went to pick it up. It was my husband, and as we spoke, I stepped into the kitchen. Perched on one of the back window screens was another black butterfly! It looked identical to the one I had seen before, right down to the ebony legs and the white dots that sprinkled its body.
The butterfly strolled casually around the screen and then turned its face toward me. “You’re not going to believe this,” I told my husband. “But there’s been a big black butterfly circling the house and landing on the window screens of the rooms I’m in!”
Allen laughed. “Maybe it’s following you.”
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe it’s trying to tell me something.”
“Could be,” Allen agreed.
We finished our conversation and I turned my attention back to the lovely winged creature watching me from the window screen. I rested my forehead against the screen while the butterfly walked about. It seemed comfortable being so close to me, and even occasionally unfurled its delicate proboscis to touch my skin.
Its presence was somehow reassuring, and I wondered again why it seemed to be following me from room to room. When it finally took flight, the same whispery rustle I had heard before sounded, and strangely, I felt comforted. Rain pattered against the trees in back of the house and fell in long straight sheets to soak the front yard. I settled again in my favorite porch chair and watched as colorful butterflies danced around in the droplets. I didn’t know that butterflies could fly in the rain, yet these were.
Bright yellow wings flashed against the gray that colored the world, and I marveled at their determination. A sudden whir of wings close to my head startled me and I ducked. The never-ending hummingbird battle raged on, regardless of the fact that I was in the midst of their battlefield, and I wondered how they kept from doing each other real harm.
Then, to my amazement, the big black butterfly appeared. It fluttered and floated, angling its way toward the hummingbird feeder. It ignored the fussy little birds that attempted to drive it away, and settled at one of the feeder ports. I could see it flicking its tongue against the port as it sipped the nectar. That was the first time I had noticed a butterfly at the feeder, and certainly the first time I had ever seen one eating there. Just then, three hummingbirds perched at the other ports and began to sip too.
I was stunned. These tiny birds, who never even wanted to share the feeder with each other, were peacefully enjoying refreshment alongside the black butterfly. What I would have given to have a camera to capture this unbelievable thing that was happening right before my surprised eyes.
All too soon the meal ended and the hummers took to the air again. The butterfly lifted off, too, and drifted about on the shifting air currents. I held my breath as it slanted toward me, and then watched in delight as it deliberately perched next to my arm. In wonder, I reached out a fingertip and carefully touched the butterfly’s silky body. It sat still and let me caress it for several seconds before it flitted away.
That black butterfly stayed on the porch with me until it was almost dark. I stared in awe as it danced and dipped and hovered in my space. Several times it landed on porch furniture near me, or on the wall behind my head. I watched the butterfly until it was nearly too dark to see. The last glimpse I had of my visitor was when it perched on the porch rail one last time. It dipped its wings in farewell before sailing off into the dusk. It had been an amazing afternoon.
One determined black butterfly had accompanied me for hours. A butterfly and three hummingbirds had dined together, and I had witnessed butterflies dancing about in the rain. And although I still had plenty of grief to handle, for chunks of time on that rainy day my attention was diverted and my heartache soothed. My bruised and battered spirit had been lifted by lovely wings of comfort.