There was a time when I wasn’t obsessed. I can’t quite remember it, for it must have taken place before I could articulate a coherent thought, when communication was reduced to caveman grunts, pointing fingers, and temper tantrums. I don’t remember what it felt like to learn how to walk, but I remember the first time I felt my feet beating against the ground as I chased after the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember the thorns, briars, and twigs sticking up into the bottoms of my bare feet. I remember the air escaping my mouth much quicker than I could drink it into my lungs. I remember feeling my hands reach out beyond a grasp I thought was physically possible, feeling my shoulder blades extend so far forward that I thought my shoulders would fall right from their sockets. I watched my fingers as they pointed like an infant, as if to say: “That. I want that.”
I don’t remember how I become obsessed either. It was as if an angel had guided them to me and me to them and orchestrated a divine dance between us. A day hasn’t gone by since I lurked through the woods and frolicked through the fields in pursuit of the most inspiring beauty roused my passion. No woman has ever come close to captivating me as much as the butterfly has. I leap and lunge after them, hoping to hold their beauty for as long as I can. In the beginning, it wasn’t very long.
I remember splitting open my palms as if I were opening the pages of a forbidden book. I peaked between the edges of my palms, attempting to contain the temporal creature. Sometimes they would dart from my hands and flutter back into the highs of the sky, so far away that no hand nor net could ever touch them. Sometimes I would feel delighted in my success of capture when they wouldn’t escape, but soon find that their wings or antennae or both had been crushed by my clumsy human hands. I remember not knowing which feeling was worse: watching the butterfly escape my grasp or looking down at a mutilated insect that lost its divine luster. I remember realizing, after moments of hesitation, frustration, and disappointment, that there was an art to capturing these elusive creatures. There is an art to holding beauty in your hands tight enough not to watch it slip away, yet just generous enough to maintain its authenticity.
There came a time when I mastered the art. I mastered the art so well that I had glass displays organized throughout my home. I had become a scholar in lepidoptery and published many works over the mysterious lives of butterflies. Not only were their wings perplexing, but so was their ability to know things. They’re intuitive creatures. They dance from flower to matching flower, knowing in their cells how to pollinate and what to pollinate. Like birds, they have an instinct for migration. They don’t require navigation to travel great distances and they don’t even live long enough to make it to their sought-out destinations. Their future generations know the way, as if a map was pressed into their DNA. Their intelligence is beautiful. But, like a young boy darting through briars and thorns, I still chase them by their wing pattern as they glitter under the sunlight.Though my house is full of colorful, symmetrical, bright wings, I still see my fingertips reach out towards the sky as I hear in my heart: “That. I want that.”