Of Butterflies and Bicycles


On a sunny day, early last month, as I was cycling into town, I witnessed a most remarkable event. A monarch butterfly lay dead on the road. What caught my attemtion was a second butterfly that flew down, hovered for a moment, touched the dead one with its wing, then flew away. Then I looked up. The air overhead was filled with circling butterflies, each in turn flying down to touch the dead one then flying away.

For weeks I have struggled to make sense of what I saw. Still today, the only answer that comes hasn’t changed from that first morning. I was priveledged to witness, “goodbye.” Surely one of the most thrilling features of cycling is that it allows me the opportunity to see events that I would miss if I were driving. The natural world is far more complex than any of us can comprehend; but people are much too busy rushing about to take the time to watch butterflies.

Many of us can remember walking to school down country roads. Fewer can remember walking to school across fields because there were no roads or because the fields were the shortest routes. Today, the only contact many people have with nature is through the windshield of a car. It is no wonder that sound environmental policy is so grossly lacking in our governments. That is sad because we were born to lie on the grass under a tree on a warm summer afternoon, or to swim in a lake without worrying about contamination, or to watch in awe as the sun begins its majestic climb into the sky. We were not born prisoners of concrete, glass and steel; we just kind of accepted it as, “the way things are.”

The natural world is filled with wonderful things that make the imagination soar. In comparison, the world that we have created, so full of fear and disarray, offers neither hope nor peace nor surety. This business we have of pretending to be gods with the power to create our own environment, is a drag, especially when the alternative is so much fun. My Thanksgiving wish is that people everywhere would find an excuse, just once, to go for a walk to watch the sunrise. They’d never be the same again. Beauty, peace and stillness are addictive, which, once tasted, can change a life forever. An entire community of butterflies turned out to say, “goodbye,” to their friend before flying away; and thanks to my bicycle,I got to see it. I forget now why I was going into town in the first place. See you next time.



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