Many years ago I lived in the Midwest. Our property sat on a bluff overlooking the town and in fall the leaves were so vivid and red that it seemed that they were painted in rich shimmery oils aptly named CANDY CANE or FIRE ENGINE RED. We had an idyllic six acres on which to roam. On the north side a succulent pear tree grew silently upward, its branches winding silently around an abandoned wood pile, while hybrid cold-weather wine grapes dotted the steep hill out front. But the best place to be was near the back of the property where remnants of a old fort lay rotting on the ground and a bowl-shaped mass of thorny gigantic red raspberries grew; the best I have ever tasted. Seriously. All these years later I haven’t experienced anything that comes close.
It was a sliding-into-fall sort of day. Jackie and I were taking a walk at the back of the property where an old car lay on the other side of the fence being claimed by no one for the past 30 years. The sun was starting its descent while still warming the stagnant air when a monarch butterfly floated by; the light shining through its semi-transparent wings like the Rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We were surprised when another butterfly glided by, soon to be followed by another, and another, and yet another. So we began to follow them to the far back edge of our land, a place we rarely visited.
As we rounded the corner we were suddenly blinded by intense hues of orange, black and green swimming in the trees. Swarms of Monarch Butterflies, starting their migration, clung to the limbs one on top of another like necklaces of cascading orange pearls. It was mesmerizing … wings sunning themselves in the remaining light of the day and legs climbing one over the other as the dominant butterfly would make it’s way to the top of the chain.I had never seen anything like it. And then it happened…
Our beast of a dog ran up to us barking joyfully and the butterflies released themselves from one another and the trees, swarming and swirling outward and upward, luminous in flight with hundreds upon hundreds of the magnificent creatures filling the sky. I still remember the chorus of the velvety fuzzy flap of their wings as the flew around us, some alighting on the pear tree and others settling on our heads and arms. It was one of those exceedingly rare “Take Your Breath Away” moments; the kind that you remember as you take your last dying breaths. The kind that you try to artificially create time and time again but can never quite capture the vivacity, artistry and allure of that type of spontaneity again. Yet, it doesn’t stop us from trying with mostly disappointing results.
What is it about these elusive and precious seconds that makes us want to experience them many times over? Moments like those few first seconds when you meet someone and immediately you know they are the soulmate you have been waiting for your entire life. Or the first cry of the baby you have anxiously imagined during the last nine months. Or the moment your child shows empathy towards someone who is struggling and you realize that how you have been parenting this kid has been right all along. It’s those rare fleeting glimpses of beauty, compassion, love and mystery that give us idea of who we are and what we want for the future.They provide a meaning to life and it is in these special moments that we are reminded of the possibilities that still exist. They give us hope for something better and sometimes closure and the peace that come with it. And if you are lucky and on a day least expected, sometimes you can find those magic moments right around the corner and in your own backyard.