I came out into the lanai to find my three little explorers huddled together looking at something.
A butterfly. Limping around in a circle. Unable to fly. Three children rooting it on, despite watching it go nowhere for the past 15 minutes. Hopeful it would return to the sky.
“Can we keep it??” They asked. “Just for a little while??”
We think it was attacked by a gecko. Butterflies have 4 wings. One whole wing (top left) was missing.
Not knowing what this would mean, or how to help, I was reluctant to agree to care for this seemingly helpless creature. But their commitment to nurturing Sky was clear and it was certainly not something I could overlook or ignore. So I went inside to get a bowl and some food – sweet watermelon – usually a favorite with butterflies. We put Sky inside and it didn’t take long before the little butterfly was enjoy some sweet watermon nectar, and seeming much calmer…and stronger.
I found the top left quadrant of Sky’s wing and it made me wonder if it was possible to help “fix” it’s wing. So I did what any other homeschooling mama would do – I googled it. We researched and read and looked at pictures to learn that there is, indeed, a way to help fix a butterfly’s wing. It involved refrigerating the butterfly to make it sleepy….and rubber cement to affix the broken piece to the intact wing on its body. Unfortunately, the thought of doing this procedure with three very active and interested wee ones did not appeal to me in the slightest … And I didn’t have any rubber cement. So that fix was ruled out.
While researching, I discovered that butterflies could fly while missing a lot of their wings. I think I read that even 3/4 of the total wings could be gone … It mattered more how the wingspan was balanced. It needed approximately the same amount of wing on either side of it’s body to properly take flight. Which got me to thinking…. If I amputated part of it’s wing on the other side, would it fly?
I sat with that thought overnight. Because, honestly, I wasn’t sure I was cut out for the job. And the logistics daunted me. The thought of cutting a butterfly while it could move and wiggle about kind of freaked me out. And I really don’t know how a butterfly “feels”. I was somewhat terrified of hurting it… The thought of giving this poor creature pain really bothered me.
At the same time .. If I left it alone, it would likely limp around in a circle, unable to fly, until it ran out of energy and either died or got eaten.
I decided to sleep on it. If it was strong enough to make it through the night I figured I would try the wing-surgery.
When I woke up in the morning the children were already investigating Sky’s night-survival and brought a fresh piece of watermelon to our little friend.
It had survived the night and seemed stronger today, we found it out of the bowl…but still not strong enough to fly.
So I got the scissors.
Terrified if hurting it, it took me several attempts before actually following through with the cut. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to cut through it – difficult? crunchy? Like Fiberglas? Or paper? Would it make a sound?
Eventually I did it. Not as bad as I expected and the butterfly did not seem to wince or dodge or hurt. And it continued limping in a circle but catching a little more air than before. Maybe there was something to this balancing act after all.
So I made another cut… This time taking off almost the entire upper right quadrant.
And you know what?
It began to fly.
Oh. My. Goodness.
So we, excitedly, brought it to the garden and set it on a flower.
It flew away.
After a few minutes, in awe we were able to help this creature by “breaking” it….
Sky returned to us.
It. Came. Back.
Of course my children believe it came back to say Thank You. To blow kisses. To show grattitude. And love.
Maybe it did.
I will never know. And I will never know what happened to it after that.
But I do know that my original thoughts to get rid of it so my kids wouldn’t be disappointed when it died or got eaten was wrong. We would have missed out on the beautiful opportunity: to nurture a living creature. To express empathy. To show love. To learn and research and explore solutions to it’s situation. To work together as a team. To listen to a being’s body language instead of it’s voice or words. To communicate with something that didn’t share our language. To worry and think about something other than ourselves. To want to help. To do everything we could.
I am warmed it worked out the way it did. But I am even more warmed by the opportunity it gave me to reflect and step outside of my comfort zone. And the opportunity Sky gave us to work together in loving ways.
And reminded me ….
Even a broken butterfly can fly.
I may look broken, but I can still fly.