Thursday, 15 July 2010

The barometric caterpillar

Greater London was silly with sunshine for weeks. Grass withered. Pimms flowed. Weathermen giggled. The natives--shirtless, red, squinting furiously--stumbled dazedly from pub to park to pub again. Houses thrust wide their double-glazed windows, like butterflies spreading wings. Neighbors glared at neighbors brash enough to laugh in their gardens after 9pm, making light of such unrelenting light.

This morning I awoke, or rather Chaos woke me, to a weather change; cool air and grey light through my white curtains. I thought of a day in the deepest doldrums of winter that found me snowed under with two babies and snowbound in the house. Ever in character, the local council couldn't locate it's grit, and the white Christmas that began a week before the actual holiday, lingered on in icy road conditions for weeks after it. My rear-wheel drive car sat quietly collecting snow.

Futile as it was to try and go anywhere, I went to the garage to search for a snow shovel, or rather a gardening shovel to misuse. I tipped over one box in a mountain of cardboard boxes, and suddenly--whoosh!--I had an Eric Carl moment: out flew a beautiful butterfly.

She was firelight orange with purple sequens on her wings. Though the box must have kept her warm enough, she could hardly move once she hit the cold ground. I took her inside and put her under a bright light in the kitchen. Ana watched in joyful awe. Butterfly! she whispered incredulously, again and again. Butterfly! I whispered it too. What was such a beautiful summertime creature doing in my garage in January?

Cold victory.
Wings flexed as if through molasses. Then quicker. Off she flew.

My sleep-deprived brain told me to leave plates of fruit around the house. She disappeared for days at a time. I thought she had passed on to greener flower gardens in the sky. But out she would flit again from a drawn curtain or a corner. Our snow butterfly lived for a month.

A butterfly is such a cliched vehicle for hope. Maybe I thought of her this morning because my obsessive-random-nostolgia-generator functions best when I first open my eyes and commence the need-coffee-now sequence. Or maybe I'll always think of her when the weather, inevitably, reverts to blah.

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