(this is an accounting of an actual conversation)
Mum looked wistfully out over the back verandah at the lone butterfly fluttering around the garden; “There aren’t nearly as many butterflies as there used to be” she announced to no-one in particular. “It must be all the poison they spray around these days. There used to be great clouds of them; when I was a girl, if there were flowers in the garden there were always butterflies”.
The wisdom of age shows in that face; the years, the tears, the troubles and the toils of a lifetime balanced by the joys and learning those years have also provided combined to create a look of serene acceptance.
The wrinkled, care-worn face shows a clear mourning for the passing of the butterflies that she had found so much joy in during her youth. “What are we doing to the place?” came the same wistful voice “There used to be flowers everywhere; maybe the greenies are right… It’s sad that my grandchildren won’t see the butterflies that I saw when I was their age” she continued.
Even though I was sitting beside her, she wasn’t speaking to me; she was just offering a gift to the place. I nodded in acknowledgement of her gift; she’s got about forty five years up on me but even in my short years I’ve seen the changes.
The world is less; in her seventy five years she’s seen a lot of that lessening happening. Deep in her eyes there’s a sadness; a sadness that she is part of the generation responsible for this lessening. “What can we do about it?” the look on her face clearly shows that she is trying to find the answer in those years of wisdom. “How can we stop it? We can’t just keep going like this” she says; speaking her thoughts as she delves for a solution.
Her grandchildren are my children and I know she is right. Her generation left a lesser world for us; now my generation will leave a lesser world for our children. But the lessening mum saw in her long life has been nothing compared to the lessening that is happening now. The juggernaut that is our society is out of control; like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
I never used to notice the butterflies, but mum was right. Does it matter; do less butterflies really change the world? Is the loss of an intrinsic beauty like butterflies going to change the earth, or our lives?
From the earth’s perspective, it means the loss of a bit of biodiversity and the loss of a small creature that pollinates a lot of flowers, so I guess it does matter. For me and my children that loss matters too; but what matters more is the loss of the beauty and the loss of that look a child has when they watch a butterfly.
Every time I see a butterfly these days I think of mum and I wonder if the next generation will ever marvel at their delicate beauty and apparently carefree gamboling through the air.
The dance of the butterfly
Wild and strangely erratic
Gyrating high into the sky
Like disjointed static
A zig zagging trail
From flights start to end
Like it’s blown in a gale
Its trails wind and wend