Sunday, March 24, 2013

Come, Experience the Butterfly Grove, by Paula Rose Michelson

Though I planned to be off line on this Palm Sunday, I felt the need to post this story! I know that might seem odd, but odd or not - when the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) directs, I must do. Today I've posted a story that made me think of my Messiah, rejoice, and cry as I wrote it. I hope you do likewise as you read it. God Bless!

Come, Experience the Butterfly Grove

Fran had not been outside much, what with getting her eldest, Analise off to her second year of college, and settling in for the fall. She was a practical woman, with brown hair and such a petite stature that many thought her no more than a teen. Yet, once one got to know her, they soon realized that she was a force to be reckoned with. She, like the house she ran, did things in a no nonsense sort of way. Underneath it all, she was one of those sweet souls who had devoted herself to hearth and home. Because of this, it was surprising to her two daughters who still lived at home and her husband when she looked up from her Sunday read and sighed, “The Fall Festivals on this weekend.” She waited for a reply, even a smile will do, she thought, but no one said a word. Her husband turned to the next page in his Wall Street Journal’s financial section and continued to read.
            Setting her paper aside, Fran stood and began to clean up from breakfast. She did not harp on the matter for she understood how much everyone needed to rest on Sunday since the week was full of commitments and their Saturdays were busy with their Messianic congregation, family, and friends. Still, she thought to herself as she washed up the dishes and set her kitchen to rights, the fall is a beautiful time of year. Nature is arrayed in her very best. The leaves of the trees are changing color from dappled green, to burnt-orange as the season ushers in the winter. Thinking that it had been a long time since she waxed poetical, she took the trash round back, and was hit with a blast of frigid. Her face numb from the unexpected unsought she closed her eyes and hoping her picture of the day might somehow be realized though, the air turns crisp, not fridge, and the days grow short. Yet as much as Fran tried to keep her thoughts from the festival, she found herself again wishing to go. You are not traipsing out there without your family, she scolded herself as she headed in, pulled her warm coat out of the hall closet, and headed out again determined to walk off her desire. She took her usual route past the city park that was five block long with its beautiful marshes, walking trails and manmade beach, around the high school, and back again.
            Looking up she saw a flock of birds flying off to warmer climes, and smiled, it is a time of making taffy, and curling up with a good book. Feeling better already, she hurried her pace as she walked along until she found what she called, for want of a better word, her center. She thought of the day Renniha, her second daughter and the most inquisitive of the three had asked, “How do you manage to always look and answer appropriately?” Well, she remembered admitting rather shamefaced that she did not have a grand bible teaching to impart, I ask myself how I would like to be treated, and treat the person I am with that way. Fran remembered that Renniha had stared at her, just as her family had done today. Pondering her daughters reaction, for perhaps the tenth time since the incident happened, Fran wondered, why does it matter to you what she thought, as long as she behaves properly I have done my job!
            By now, Fran was in a sweat, whether from the weather that had warmed up as the sun reached its zenith or from her own musings, she was not sure, as she hurried back home. All she knew as she opened the front door and put her coat away was that today she would take her own advice and treat herself as she would others.
            As she hurried upstairs to get ready to leave her husband hollered, “Where have you been? I have been looking for you!”
            Peeking out from their bedroom door, she smiled, “Walking, thinking, and now I’m getting ready to go the festival!”
            Before she could utter another word, Fran saw two bedroom doors fly open as her daughters whined, “But mom, you promised…”
            Fran had never, for as long as she could remember interrupted anyone. However, she had, had enough! So with as well modulated a tone as she could muster, she insisted, “The weather has warmed up, and it’s a wonderful day for an excursion!”
            The sister rolled their eyes. They had learned long ago that when their mom spoke that way, one or both of them, was going to have to do whatever she wanted. Without saying a word Laila looked at Renniha, and nodded in their mothers direction, as if to say, ‘you’re turn.’
            Renniha sighed resigning herself to the outing. However, Fran was aware of all they were not saying and announced, “I don’t want any of you to put yourself out on my account!”
            The girls looked at each other, shrugged, and turned way.

            Ten minutes later, Fran was behind the wheel of their station wagon and heading out all by herself. She felt a little sorry that her brood had decided to forgo the event. However, as she pulled onto the level graveled place where the sign directed visitors to park, her sprits revived reminding her that this was her day, not theirs and that she deserved to do something for herself every now and then.
            Even before she locked the car door, Fran spotted the old farmhouse, which someone had bequeathed to the town. As she walked toward it, she was taken back to another time, a time when life was simpler. It was only upon reaching the place that she discovered the grand Victorian nestled in the trees, some distance behind it. Wanting to inspect it more closely she headed out and spotted a meticulously calligraphied sign that read “Butterfly Crossing” on a pristine field of white with raised letters of forest green. I saw one just like this when I parked, she thought to herself aware that the place had so captivated her imagination that her practical nature had taken a backseat to her sense of joyful exploration.
            Feeling unfettered by obligations, she walked up the winding path to the Victorian and as she neared the place, Fran realized that it had been built to look much like the brownstones in San Francisco. She paused for a moment, and thought about the people that might have once lived, or visited the place, which was adorned for the season, resplendent in all its Victorian trappings. Interested in the buildings architecture, she mounted the wide veranda that enwrapped the small but pristine Mans, and walked around, as she peered within to view its rooms. She would have gone in but trying the door, found it locked. Thinking there might be someone about with the key, she turned intending to search for them. She heard the sound of children’s laughter, and headed toward them. As she did, she spotted another “Butterfly Crossing” sign. All right, she thought, I get the message! Yet, as she neared the children, she laughed inwardly butterfly crossing, why that is silly!
            Perhaps if she had not discounted the words, and thereby found herself needing something else to think about, Fran might not have looked up to gage the weather front that was slowly approaching and noticed that the trees across the field, were aglow with moving, shimmering, and varied colors. As she happily exclaimed later, “I will never know for sure what drew my attention toward the fallow field, for I was interested in the Mans, and did not look at anything else once I spotted it!”
            All Fran knew at her moment of discovery was that as she stepped on to the field, her feet began to sink into the moist brown earth. An old gray haired gent in a wagon filled with hay pulled up along side and asked, “Do you want a closer look at the butterflies?” Suspending her version of reality, Fran nodded her head excitedly, got into the wagon, and watched with baited breath as he brought her within a few inches of the beautiful and varied array of the butterfly grove. She watched in wondered awe as the old gent lovingly explained, “This grove of trees is in their flight path. They stop here each year, eat till their full, and fly off to continue their migration to warmer places where they winter.”
            As she listened to his soothing voice, Fran felt herself surrounded by Monarchs, almost as if she was one of them. She felt the beauty and serenity of their rhythmetic wings that moved the leave of the trees to stir ever so slightly, causing them to look, for want of any better observation, like a living organism. Fran found herself wishing to be one with them, and suddenly aware of that idea, she paused to think. Nevertheless, not being fashioned to be other than she was, at some point she heard the gent’s voice continue, “When they stop here they bring a blessing, and because of that people come to see them from miles, and miles around. In fact,” he smiled knowingly, “that’s why the family that owned the place left it to the city, and made certain that this place was marked as a Butterfly Crossing. But,” he cautioned, “you won’t find many town folks here because their used to the butterfly days. Besides,” he chuckled, “sometimes the pretty little things are nothing more that a darn nuisance!”
            Fran looked at him quiziqually. The old gent must have sensed her unasked question because rather than swat the teams rump, and direct them back to the bale of hay where others waited patiently to be taken to the trees he sighed, “Having them here is an amazing experience. Until they get in your path, causing you to chose a different route. Worse yet, they make it impossible for life, to continue in any orderly fashion because of all the visitors. Then, he sighed sadly, as he swatted the horses rump with his reigns and they headed back to the hay bale, “as quickly as they come, their gone. I think their about ready to fly away, since they’ve been here for a week and that’s about as long as they stay.”
            She understood more than the old gent said, for having said goodbye to Analise last year as she headed off for her first semester at Stanford, and facing the same ordeal with Renniha’s leaving after the holidays to take up residence in Palm Springs where her grandparents and fiancée live, Fran knew she was facing another loss. Yet, as Fran, headed back to her car and turned back to glance longingly at the grove, she reminded herself that she had learned to let go, as she unlocked the door. As she started the motor, she turned back for a last look and sighed, their have been only a handful of places in my life that I have regretted leaving, and I most assuredly I have never allowed myself to regret leaving a place I can visit again. Nevertheless, even as she told herself that, and turned her gaze away from the Cypress trees and focused of the road, she felt a pang of sorrow that reminded her of how she had felt and would feel again.
            Years later she would admit but only after her husband of sixty years had died, that, in the comfort of old age she had learned to let go of each member of her family, and many other things, and learned how to say hello to the unexpected with a smile.
            Yet when she left that grove the first time, Fran found it hard to shake off the feeling that in leaving it she was loosing something special. “Perhaps you have felt that way at times too,” she told them, her aged voice resonate with the joy of her discovery thirty-some years before as she continued, “Its, to hard to put it into words because they still fall short, yet if I had to explain it I would say, its like a leaving when one should be cleaving.” However, that first time, as Fran hurried home to get dinner started; she realized that she was glad she had taken the time to steel away.
            As she hurried in the front door a chill wind came off the Back Bay, and Fran sighed bidding a fond farewell to fairyland fantasies as she hung up her coat. Renniha, her very grown up nineteen year old greeted Fran, and listened as her mom waxed lyrical about her experience. While she did, Renniha realized, yet again, what a gifted poet her mom might have become if she had not married and devoted herself to her family.
            “Please come to the butterfly grove,” Fran begged, her eyes bright with the possibility of sharing one last outing together before the daughter that was, became the woman that was to be. As Renniha aquesied, Fran thought, it might have been my not taking no for an answer, I will never know for sure! However, she did not care as they headed back together. All she knew was that they were headed back; just the two of them, and that was enough for her! When they arrived, Fran discovered Renniha was placating her. At least that is how it seemed to her when they reached the bale of hay, found the kindly gent gone, and had to wait until he returned while Renniha silently fumed.
            However, it was all worth it to Fran when her daughter spotted the Monarchs. As her daughters face lit up, Fran took a silent photograph and stored it in the memory of her heart as she etched Renniha’s expression of delight upon her mind. This moment she sighed will be one of my favorite ones to remember because it will remind me of our precious time together! As the butterflies did their colorful dance for Renniha, mother and daughter stared in wonder, speechless yet united in a way they had never been before. Then as the sun waned, the two of them headed home, savoring the memory.
            As they got out of the car, Renniha turned to her mother and exclaimed, “Thank you insisting I come, and see!”
             Fran smiled back thinking that was the end of it, but it was just the beginning. From that time until Renniha left, everyday whether it was good weather or fowl, the two of them headed out to the grove. It was a season of sharing, and carrying. Of growing close to each other as they prepared to say goodbye, for her second daughter was intent on heading down south, and Fran was saying put keeping hearth and home for her and Mort, happy to be there whenever either of their gown daughters could visit or drop by.  
            Yet as surely as the seasons came around again, the butterflies came back, and this time Fran made the pilgrimage with Laila, her youngest. However, knowing she would be her last child, and that the teen was just a few years shy of flying the nest, instead of watching the array of color as she had before, and allowing herself the fantasy of wondering what it would be like to live the life of the Monarch, Fran watched Laila.  
            The years, and the cycles of life ebbed, and flowed and before anyone knew it, Fran and Mort were old. Then one day quite unexpectedly Mort died. However, when the daughters returned for the funeral, and spent some time with their mother, and they asked about their fathers last words, Fran smiled, “He said I will meet you there.”
            The sisters did not know what that meant, but sensing it was something private between their parents, they chose not to pry. However, rushing to their mothers bedside eighteen months later to say goodbye as she prepared to leave them Fran asked, “Remember coming to the butterfly grove?”
            Each of them nodded, for visiting the grove had become a family tradition and even though the family was disbursed, at least once a year they all came home with husbands and children in tow to head out too the old farm.
            Seeing her brood nod, Fran smiled, “That my children is how God looks at you and me. He looks at us as any loving parent would, for we are His whether we believe or not.” Seeing some of her grandchildren look at her questionly Fran sighed, “How do I know? I cannot explain it all, but in the same way I found myself drawn to the Butterfly Grove, God is drawing us to Him, even now. Even now, he is calling to each of us through the Ruach Hakodesh, “Come and see.” Even now, the women are racing to the tomb. Even now, the angel is saying, “Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.”
            Analise, Renniha, Laila, their husband, and children nodded as grandma Fran continued, “Even now, the butterflies are flying away. Even now, it is time to decide what you will give your life to, the world, or the Messiah. Even now, before the sunsets, and all is hushed, even now there is time before the last butterfly flutters by. Even now Mort waits for me there.”      


  1. There are few things more delightful than a tree full of Monarch butterflies.

  2. Yes, Janice,you're absolutely right! Once while on retreat in Big Bear, which is 6,700 ft. above sea level, tiny flutter-byes emerged from their cocoons and though it was amazing too see these tiny newborns fly from snow, it did not compare to the real moment I fictionalized in this story!