Monday, March 27, 2017

We're all broken, a lesson learned from a butterfly

Cecil B. Day Butterfly House
There's a place not far from here where butterflies flourish. If you choose to visit, you will surely not be disappointed. The Cecil B. Day Butterfly house is located on the grounds of Callaway Gardens. The ornate glass building is conducive to providing the perfect amount of sunlight for plants and warmth for the butterflies. At times, it's hard to deal with so much beauty in one place but I go because I love butterflies.

Yesterday was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. My husband and I decided to take a "mini vaca day," as we like to call them.  They're short jaunts we can accomplish in a day or less. Where should we go? We talked about several locations and agreed Callaway Gardens would be the perfect place to spend the day. We hadn't been there in many years and felt it was time to go back for a visit.

Callaway Gardens is a 2500 acre property nestled in the southwest part of Georgia. Some of the many attractions included in the gardens include a man made beach, zip lining, playgrounds, picnic areas, walking trails, golf course, restaurants, circus tent, a bird of prey exhibit and much more. There are always flowers blooming on the grounds and the management makes sure to include native species found here in Georgia.
Southern Pearly Eye

After driving for about an hour, we entered the gardens. Without even asking, my husband began to drive toward the butterfly house. He knew it was my favorite place and where I'd want to begin our day. I smiled as the warmth of the sun heated our car knowing the butterfly house would be much warmer. We pulled into the parking area outside the massive building constructed of glass and steel. I marveled at the architecture though I'd seen it many times in the past. The hexagonal angles of the glass bounced the sunlight in all directions. It seemed to glow with a heavenly radiance.

We entered the building and walked past the information center and gift shop. There weren't too many people and we were glad. It's always nice to enjoy the butterflies without crowds. Opening the door to the butterfly room, a wave of moist heat slapped me in the face. "Instant sauna," I said to my husband, as I grinned and continued forward. Beautiful butterflies glided through the air. In and around us they flitted. Instantly a large Blue Morpho landed on my hand. I was in heaven! I'd purposely worn my sweetest smelling perfume, Jessica McClintock, to attract these delicate beauties and it had worked! Hubby snapped a quick cell phone picture of me. We stood and watched the brilliant colors and shapes of these delicate creatures as they darted to and fro. I took out my 35mm digital camera and popped on my telephoto lens. As I readied for a shot, I realized my lens had fogged up. The transition from the air conditioning in the main building to the sauna like temperatures in the butterfly house had collided producing an unwanted misty film over my lens. Quickly, I took my lens cloth and wiped the foggy haze away. I began shooting and my husband disappeared further into the plant filled room. He knew I'd take my time capturing each and every butterfly.
More beauty

There were so many varieties of butterflies! I'd read on the website there were over 1000! While in elementary school, I'd taken an interest in learning to identify our native butterflies so I was tickled to find there were still a few I actually remembered. There was a pretty brown, camouflaged butterfly called a Southern Pearly Eye, a delicate white and orange one called a Dainty Sulphur, Yellow Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, a pretty orange, black and white one called a Postman, several types of fritillaries, and many I'd seen before but couldn't identify. As I continued photographing my favorites, one butterfly in particular caught my eye. It was a medium sized black winged butterfly with red spots. I watched as it landed on top of a brilliant purple flower. It was gorgeous. As the wings of the butterfly unfolded, I couldn't help but notice one of its wings was broken. The jagged edge was torn and rough. I felt sorry for the butterfly, but I was disappointed. I didn't want to photograph this less than perfect specimen. I'd always worked hard to choose butterflies without imperfection for my photos. No one would find beauty in a photograph of a butterfly with an injury. I continued to watch the broken, beautiful butterfly suck nectar from the flower.
Dainty Sulphur
It perched delicately on top of a tiny purple blossom and probed deep for the sweetest sustenance the flower could give. That broken wing kept my attention. I wondered how and when the wing had been damaged. Had the butterfly flown into something causing it to be ripped and torn away? Had the papery thin appendage been grabbed by some small child clasping with an eager hand? Whatever caused the wing to become damaged had apparently not kept the butterfly from continuing on with its life. It still flew. It still fed. It still did what butterflies do. Although the average life span of most butterflies is only a month, this little guy was thriving. His injury was not debilitating. And that's when it hit me...

Feeding upon a flower
We're all broken. In some way, shape, or form, we're all damaged. None of us are perfect. A butterfly quietly slipped in front of me gently kissing the front of my blouse. I looked down and remembered. My chest. The butterfly had touched my most vulnerable place. The place I protected and shielded. Since breast cancer surgery to remove both breasts, I was always conscious of my chest. I didn't like to go out in public because I always felt like people were looking at me. The silicone prostheses I'd slipped into my bra before our trip today made me look like a woman on the outside but sometimes I didn't feel like one on the inside. I was broken. I didn't feel beautiful.

The black butterfly with the broken wing darted away. I watched as he flew from one flower to another. On and on he flew, rising higher and higher until I could no longer see him. How did you learn to fly so high, butterfly? Who taught you to ignore your damaged wing? Did the other butterflies ever notice your brokenness? I stood with my camera dangling around my neck. My husband was coming toward me. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as he approached. He saw them. "What's wrong?," he questioned. My chin dropped to my chest and I turned to walk to a secluded spot in the thickest part of the floral garden. I looked at him and whispered, "I'm broken." He had no idea what I was talking about so I tried my best to explain what I was feeling. When I'd finished, he put his arm around me and we made our way out of the butterfly house. I could feel the tiniest little butterfly kiss of a whisper right beside my ear saying, "We're all broken, but it's okay. Be like the butterfly and choose to live life anyway."

Our drive home was long. We were tired. We'd hiked, picnicked, and enjoyed the entire day at the gardens. The eighty degree weather and the pollen filled air had zapped our energy. Leaning my head back on the seat, I thought about the broken butterfly's wing and the messaged whispered as we'd left the building. We're all broken and it's okay. We truly are. We're all defective in some way.  Some of our injuries are visible and some are not. That little butterfly was my hero. He was valiant and brave. He'd decided not to focus on his injury but on his blessings. He could still fly, even with a broken wing. He was still beautiful, even with the raggedness. He was still alive! And so was I.

What a powerful lesson. Thank you little butterfly. You'll never know how you touched my life one warm, March day or maybe you do? Maybe I was meant to witness your brokenness and maybe you were meant to be my teacher. And without saying a word, you said so much.

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