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Essays : Small Miracle

by Marlene Harris, 16 October 1999

It was very late Thursday night when I arrived home and parked my car. As I walked towards the front door, I noticed a monarch butterfly lying in the grass. Who but me would have been able to detect the minute creature? After all, dark night, dark grass and the tiny animal was not moving at all. But there it was, and I picked it up, feeling sorry over the untimely demise of such a beautiful creature.

As I held it, a tiny flutter of wings, and I thought the night wind was playing tricks on me, but I soon realized the butterfly was alive, though barely. I cradled it in my hands gently, avoiding as much as possible, to disturb those fragile wings, the lifeblood of this monarch of the air.

I brought it inside away from the prying eyes of my two nosy cats. Upon examining it, I noticed a tiny tear in one wing, but otherwise the butterfly seemed intact. Or was it? After all, I am not a butterfly expert and perhaps there were a host of signs indicating the extent of the injuries. But, as I say, the creature looked relatively okay as it clung to the side of my mesh purse.

I left the animal clinging to my purse in the bathroom, closing the light and shutting the door. I hoped that by bringing the butterfly into the warmth, it now had a one-in-a-million chance to survive (providing the cause of its current state was not serious.) Surely, leaving it outside in the freezing night air would have reduced its odds of survival to zero-in-a-million.

The next morning I entered the room and turned on the light, expecting the creature to be dead, only to find it still clinging to my purse. But now with the light, it began moving its wings again, and soon, was actually fluttering around the room! Imagine a monarch butterfly sailing around in a bathroom, incongruous in the extreme…

After a while I gently put the creature in a glass and transported it out to my balcony, setting it down on the ground. I had hoped it would take off. It stopped moving. I left it to reorient itself, but no movement. None all day.

Throughout the day, I periodically checked its progress. No movement. Except an occasional flutter of wings, this time definitely due to the teasing wind.

Today, Saturday, I looked out the window, and it was lying on its side. It had lost the battle. I was not surprised.

Just about 20 minutes ago, I looked outside to check the weather for signs of rain. The sky was quite clear…but what was that? The wind again? For surely the wings were fluttering slightly. I watched and to my utter astonishment, the butterfly began feebly shuffling across the balcony. I thought my eyes were playing tricks, but no, my two cats were now glued to the window, both pop-eyed at the sight.

The butterfly was clumsily heading for the edge of the balcony. If it was strong enough, that would be a good plan, but in its feeble state, what would happen, after all we are on the sixth floor.

So, once again, I captured the creature, gently setting it in a glass. We made our way downstairs, and I turned the glass onto the branch of a fir tree. The butterfly seemed to know, for suddenly the beautiful wings were completely outstretched, and they appeared strong and ready…The monarch perched for a second on the branch, and in a gleam of orange and black, it was up, soaring to the very top of a huge maple tree.

It is indeed hard to express my feelings upon seeing that fragile creature take to the air, as if reborn. I hope my timely intervention helped give the butterfly the second chance. But in my mind, I know it is the power of nature and the will to survive that will ultimately decide the fate of this true monarch.

w w w . M o n a r c h W a t c h . o r g
m o n a r c h @ k u . e d u

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