My father used to say that butterflies only land on the prettiest flowers. And on people who possess a beautiful soul.
When I was a child, butterflies often used to land on me. And that made me proud in the eyes of my father.
In that little plot of garden he rented, he carefully tended wild plants and flowers. By instinct.
This corner of wild and uncommon greenery was very like him.
And on Saturdays and Sundays we would all pile into the car to go there, some way out of the city. Out there, my mother would spread a picnic on a giant plaid blanket covering the moist ground. Then, after eating, we would sleep to the sound of the crickets.
My father would work the land for pleasure. With no purpose in mind. "Just to turn the earth over and aerate it," he would explain to my sister and me. Then he might forget about it for a whole season. "To let it rest," he would say as justification.
It was in this intimate environment that in spring the butterflies would choose me by settling on my shoulders. They would fold their wings and keep as still as I did. Gently, for fear of shattering the magic, I would turn my head and observe them. I examined the complex designs on their wings, and I'd want to stroke them. But I stopped myself, as I knew how fragile a butterfly was. So I confided my secrets in them instead. And they would only take flight again when I had finished pouring my heart out.
Today, in my garden, as the fine weather is returning and butterflies are fluttering around my children, I think of my father. And if, by chance, one should land on one of my children's shoulders, I tell our family legend. Then I ask the butterfly to tell my father that I have found in his grandchildren my beautiful child’s soul that he used to love so much.
To my father, that too ephemeral butterfly
Translated by Wendy Cross