The faithful visitor

It comes into my backyard often, fluttering and swooping gracefully, its yellow wings beating the air.   I’ll be supervising the boys’ sprinkler play or gardening or eating dinner with my family, and I look up and there it is.  I’m not an expert in butterflies, so I can’t identify it — my dad, who was over on the Fourth of July when it made an appearance, said that he thought it was a swallowtail.  All I know is that it’s big and bright and beautiful  … and faithful.




I first saw the yellow butterfly about three years ago.  I remember being in the backyard with Matthew, eating lunch on the patio furniture, and there it was, like a graceful yellow kite in the sky.  It came so daringly low, so near, as if it were a butterfly in a Disney movie.   It didn’t seem at all afraid of us, two ungainly humans following its every move.  Maybe it could tell we were friendly.

Since then, I’ve seen this butterfly more times than I can count.  It seems like  every time I’m out in the backyard with my laptop,  I look up, and there it is.  I don’t know how long butterflies live; it’s surely not the same one coming back summer after summer, even though in my fanciful writer-heart I like to think so.

There’s a famous quotation attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”  This butterfly always comes so close to me as I sit there in the yard, astonishingly close. And I never get tired of seeing it.   I always stop whatever I’m doing and look up and smile and feel grateful.

Because every time that beautiful yellow creature dances into my yard, my mind flits briefly to the idea of happiness, and something shifts inside my soul.    That butterfly makes me stop and remember that no matter how many little layers of stress there are in my job, no matter how many annoying new twinges there are in my now forty-year-old body, no matter how much I never have enough free time and no matter how easy it is to get demoralized by the mess that is my living room, I am, at my core,  really and truly happy.

Butterfly image from Karen’s Whimsy.

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