To officially celebrate aging a number, I ended up spending a morning at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. Excellent, for numerous reasons. But the extra oomph and celebration came in the form of one current exhibition, their Butterflies & Blooms.
Think fairy gardens and other sacred spaces. Think wonder and mystery, marvels and beauty. Before entering, a guide hands you a laminated photo guide and instructions to stand very near the door, to watch your feet. Because,
or, you know, It’s no exaggeration. Upon entering, every human occupant is either frozen in a pointing position, or still as statues with their cameras quivering. Around us all fly hundreds of butterflies. They hover above, perch on blooms, flutter at each other, or pause for a snack.
In the Philippines there is a belief that butterflies are the spirits of loved ones passed. When my grandfather, Lolo Daddy, died, I remember being in the Philippines for his funeral. For a week the family had held somewhat celebratory wakes, followed by a somber burial. When the ceremonies were done, all guests gone, my exhausted family lay scattered in the heat, taking refuge under shades of trees and porches. And, I remember this — on this scene, a butterfly suddenly appeared. It floated in our midst, and seemed to pass from member to member. From my aunt smoking on the porch to an uncle reflectively lifting a San Mig to his lips, each of my relatives simultaneously lifted their gaze. “Hiiiii dad,” they said in a chorus.
They say the average lifespan of a winged adult is about two weeks. To think, to share a few minutes of the 336 hours in a butterfly’s fleeting existence! To think, we are all butterflies on this grand scale of things.
This year, I have very high hopes for what I’d like to accomplish. I’ve mapped the steps I need to take, the moves I have to make, I’ve drawn scales. And still, I want to remember how important time is to everyone. How important life is when you live it. And I want to do something about it. And I want to love everyone I know a little bit more.