Colder months, fewer butterflies. I always feel I didn’t appreciate them enough. A bag of goo--a painted clown--become a monarch, its wet wings still unfolding. Metamorphosis! The enactment of myth. And we who live by myth, who live in fear of change and death, are privileged to see this transformation over and over, a common thing, an everyday thing. A living myth.
It doesn’t surprise me, really, that when the Hindu god Brahma watched caterpillars change into pupae and then butterflies in his garden, he conceived of the idea of reincarnation; that the Greeks use the word psyche for both soul and butterfly; that ancient images on Egyptian sarcophagi show butterflies surrounding the dead; that in Ireland, in 1680, a law forbade the killing of white butterflies because they were the souls of children; that during World War II, Jewish inmates in concentration camps carved butterflies into their prison walls; that in China in the 1990s single white butterflies were found in the cells of executed convicts recently converted to Buddhism; that butterflies are said to be the tears of the Virgin Mary, that migrating sulfurs are pilgrims on their way to Mecca.
Cold nights, and I always think: I should have paid more attention to butterflies.