I was absentmindedly gazing out the side window of our van on our way home from dinner yesterday evening as we approached a stop sign near our house. Just as Darren pulled into the intersection, a flash of orange caught my eye, and I turned to see what I initially perceived as a small leaf dancing along the surface of the asphalt. As we rounded the corner, however, I recognized the delicate form for what it actually was and cried out to Darren, "Wait! I think that was a wounded butterfly back there!" Without a moment of hesitation, he quickly executed a perfect U-turn and pulled over to the curb. As he stepped out of the van, I slid over to the driver's seat and watched in the rear view mirror as he bent down to gently retrieve the still form lying in the road. Watching him make his way back to the open door of the passenger's side, I hardly dared ask the question, forming the words in scarcely more than a whisper: "Is she...D-E-A-D?"
"No, no, she's hurt, but she's still alive," Darren assured me. "Let's take her home so she can rest in our garden." Neither of us, it seems, could bear the thought of the alternative.
Arriving home, we went straight through the house to the back door and out to the garden, where we carefully set the regal Queen on a pretty Shasta Daisy near the border of the flower bed. (We wondered at first if she was a Monarch, but as she didn't seem to quite match the description, we checked our resources and found that she was actually a local cousin.)
Our kids gathered around to have a closer look at the pathetically beautiful butterfly they had helped rescue, but when small hands threatened to further damage the already beaten wings, we nestled her deeper into the garden, among the dainty buds of the Oregano. I watched her closely while the children played in the yard and busy bees buzzed nearby, but as darkness fell, I knew we'd have to go in. With a long last glance back, I ushered the kids into the house and got them ready for bed, thinking, all the while, of the fragile beauty left sadly behind in the garden.
A quick peek this morning revealed no sign of her, but Darren just came in from the yard, where he had discovered her lifeless form lying beneath the plants. Even in death she is beautiful, but I'm glad that, however briefly, we were blessed to be touched by her life.