Handful of friendship

It began last year in August, with the watermelon season. Ater supper Per and I were in the habit of taking our evening dessert, generally a modes slice of watermelon, out to our high deck, where we would flip the seeds out among the pines. Sometimes they took and a little watermelon seeding sprang up. I suppose that the fragrance and the appealing pinkness of those slices may have been attractive to an insect whose daily fare was honey dew. This can only be a guess, but it was a fact that every fevening at desert time, a silver and brown butterfly fluttered down to the railing beside me. At first I noticed him only vaguely, but in a few days, looking more carefully, realized that this was indeed the same individual each evening. The scale-like markings on his lower right wing were blurred as though they had been rubbed between a person's thumb and forefinger. The bottom edge of that wing had been worn away in an uneven line. This butterfuly had been around for some time, experiencing sun and wind, maybe more.

After a week of observing him I decided to make a gesture toward him. Just why I call this silver and brown insect "him" is hard to say. I tentatively placed my large finger on the railing before his delicate body. To my amazement and delight he gently lowered an antenna and touched my finger. Then he raised a foot onto its towering height. To continue the communication I gently bounced him up and down. He seemed to like it, and we continued in this fashion of five or six minutes -- a human-powered butterfly carnival ride.

As the days passed I increasingly looked forward to my evening contact with this creature from another world. Coudl be have sensed my appreciation of him, the wonder I felt, and even love? As we came out to the porch, I would call to him in a tone that I hoped was appropriate to a butterfly. In a few moments he would swoop down from wherever he had been, and from whaterver business it had been his to do. The speed of his coming was incredible, as was his ability to suddenly change direction in midair with the skill we attribute to flying saucers. After sitting for a moment on my shoulder, he would fly off and perhaps return once more.

One evening another butterfly rose from the ground to meet him. They swirled together, rising high in the air. To my non-insect eyes it looked as though they might be locked in battle. The next evening this happened again, after which my friend did not respond to the butterfly call for several days. They I spotted him resting on a pine branch in the last rays of the evening sun. I called, and he came a little way toward me, but returned to the branch. This happened three times until he finally flew all the way and settled into my half-opened hand. He rustled hsi wings against my finger and flew off for the last time, leaving me with a much wider world and much gratitude.

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