Princess Commando bounded into the dining room as I was setting the table for dinner.
'Mom! The butterflies are so beautiful. There are hundreds of them in the trees!' She had that look upon her face- brush strokes warmly, softly suggesting that she had been illuminated, her spirit bathed in grace.
But, I was too enmeshed in my moment- the dinner boiling over, The Baby demanding 'Green Juice!' (a store bought concoction of green vegetables and fruits), The Dog scratching the paint off the back door to be let inside, the realization that we did not have any clean forks. Her words barely registered and all I could come back with was a thoughtless pin prick to her iridescent bubble, "Butterflies? They were probably moths."
She shrugged, "Well, they are pretty moths then."
The following day I strapped The Baby into her stroller and took her for a walk in our neighborhood. To distract her from trying to escape, I told her that we were on the hunt for animals. 'Let me know if you see any squirrels or cats.'
'There's a bird,' she announced pointing to a plump robin hopping in the grass.
'Yes, that is a robin,' I certified. 'See his red belly?'
'A butterfly,' she reported. 'Yes,' I confirmed. 'That is a butterfly.'
A few steps later, 'A butterfly!'
Another few steps, 'Another butterfly! And, there's one! And, another one! So many butterflies'
Princess Commando was right about her discovery the evening before. There they were- in the trees above us. There they were airily dancing on the sidewalk before us- daintily lighting on a blade of grass, a blossom, a tender twig. We could feel the flutter of their wings whisper past as they traced tiny S's around us. Hundreds of butterflies- flashes of red-orange then black. Ethereal bodies coming in and out of focus. The Baby giggled. It was enchanting.
A warm front had blown in these tiny out-of-towners from the South. Red Admiral butterflies had not been spotted here in over 15 years. And, now, here they were magically transforming the landscape with the delicate rise and fall of their passage. Little beacons of light enlivened places in the garden of my marrow where the weeds had stifled new shoots from efflorescing.
I wished I had paused what I was doing when Princess Commando's spirit had been so clearly moved the night before. I wished I had not put so much weight in my obligations at that moment. It was not just the fragile beat of gossamer wings I was dismissing. It was the radiance of a soul's awakening in a dearest face- that I let slip through my fingers-which reminded me once again of the fragile and beautiful passage of childhood. Dinner can boil over, dirty forks can remain soiled, The Dog can claw the paint off of the door; and, the world will most likely not end. But unexpected moments of breathtaking beauty are ephemeral. Flashes of red-orange, then black evaporating before our eyes.