What Can I do?


Early evening, calm air, quiet, and as I step onto the kitchen deck, there’s a slight motion to my left: a Monarch butterfly slowly opening and closing his wings is clinging to the small weathered table by my meditation chair. Even with a garden full of milkweed plants in bloom, we’d not seen a single Monarch this year and now, this graceful October gift arrives as the days grow increasingly cold.

He doesn’t seem to mind when I sit down and close my eyes, and remains just under the table top until I open them, then lifts off. But he’s not flying well, with very uneven movements in large loops, and after a few moments, he falls on the deck, face down in a crevice between two planks. I bend and put my index finger close to his head. He crawls up my finger to the back of my hand and stays. Awed, I stand and examine his body closely as he moves. There seem to be no wounds on his wings or antennae, and all his legs are working fine. I carry him a few steps in the hope of getting him away from the deck but he flies and falls again, his head in another crevice. We try again. He climbs up and stays on my index finger for a short time, then attempts to fly—and falls. On our third try he waits long enough to be let down on a Lenten rose bush at the edge of the deck. There he rests on one broad leaf; another one shades his head. . . He’ll be safe here. . .  Is he thirsty? Do butterflies drink?  . . . Does he need food? I cut a fresh milkweed blossom from a nearby plant and give it to him. He bends his head and feeds . . . I let him be.

The next day, George and I are having lunch on the deck and I tell him about the butterfly. It had seemed appropriate yesterday to let go of the Monarch’s fate and to wait until it seemed the right moment to look under the leaves of the Lenten rose again. Now. I walk to the edge of the deck. Nothing there: no butterfly, no milkweed blossom. I sit down again, wondering aloud: “Has he flown? Did a bird get him?”  Moments later, a Monarch sails back and forth—just one pass each way—and disappears, soaring over the bright red and golden milkweed flowers from plants that, four generations before, had nourished his ancestor in the photograph.

There is so much suffering in the world! Many of us ask, “What can I do?” In every moment, Life offers opportunities to serve a single being: to be present, to see, to listen, to feed, to teach, to learn, to contribute time, energy, knowledge, funds . . . Some needs may seem small compared to the major issues in our world, yet when we respond, every act has invisible wings.

Filed under Uncategorized by Anne Hillman #

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