I love the early morning, when the world is silent and not even the birds are awake – apart from the nocturnal birds.
On Sunday morning I opened the curtains in my bedroom and on the patio floor, in a puddle of rainwater, it’s waterlogged wings wide open, was an African Monarch butterfly. I picked it up gently and took it into my bedroom, placing it on a facecloth next to the open door, to absorb the rain from its wings, and put a water and sugar drenched tissue in front of it. It needed to regain its strength. What do you feed a butterfly?
In the afternoon the sun came out and I placed the butterfly on a chair and took it outside. It became more alert and started to pump its wings but soon became still, wings upright. I put it on my finger, and we looked at each other, nice for me to see a butterfly at such close range, and when it spread its wings again, I could see that one of them was damaged, graunched. Maybe it had tried to fly out of the rainwater. It didn’t mind when I softly stroked its damaged wing, willing it to heal. I marveled at the perfection of nature and at both the fragility and the strength of its wings. It tried to fly a few times that afternoon but would fall to the ground. I brought it back inside again, and it spent the rest of the day with me, either on my finger or on the facecloth. I don’t believe in interfering in nature but this time I did. It was not going to be eaten by ants or by birds.
As night approached, I put it in a bathroom, on a sheet hanging over the bath, with a sugar-soaked tissue and a small piece of apple, so that it would be safe, and I shut the door. It perched there the whole night and the following day I repeated the process, except I went out for a few hours, and when I returned it had gone. I had left it on the chair outside. I didn’t think it was strong to fly so I went downstairs and there it was perching on the tiles outside the dining room. I took it upstairs again and repeated the routine from the day before.
Yesterday I dreaded opening the bathroom door. I didn’t think it would survive another day. But it had. I took it outside, sitting on my finger. It was overcast and the wind buffeted its wings. It wasn’t strong enough to fly. I put it on a facecloth on my desk and it kept me company for most of the day as I continued to work on, ‘Suicide at the Burj Khalifa.” This time I pushed the sugar and water-soaked tissue right up to its mouth and looked at it a few times through a magnifying glass to see if it was drinking. I took it outside a few times on my finger but the sun hadn’t come out, so I put it on my desk once more and continued to write. At last the sun came out and taking it through to my bedroom it sat on the bed in the sun briefly and then its head started moving and its wings started pumped slightly. It was time to try again, even though I didn’t hold much hope that it would fly again. I thought that I would be looking after it for the next few months as African Monarchs live for between six and eight months. I put it on my finger again and went outside. Its wings starting to whirr, and it flew off, only to fall to the floor. A few seconds later it flew away. The butterfly was free again.
It brought to mind Khalil Gibran’s poetic novel, ‘Broken Wings’, one of Laura’s favourite stories. How many of us have a broken wing and how do we adapt to life, a little more fragile than before?
One of the most poignant extracts, for me, from the novel.
“We stood up and bade each other farewell, but love and despair stood between us like two ghosts, one stretching his wings with his fingers over our throats, one weeping and the other laughing hideously. As I took Selma’s hand and put it to my lips, she came close to me and placed a kiss on my forehead, then dropped on the wooden bench. She shut her eyes and whispered softly, “Oh, Lord God, have mercy on me and mend my broken wings.”’
Laura had broken wings.
I am a pantheist and a vegan.