Butterfly Balm

When I awoke from my sleep walk I knew that the danger had passed. And that when you’ve not a thing left to loose, you fear not a thing. It’s taken me years however, to realize that there are few who share my perspective.

There are those who advise me not to walk or ride along the side the of the road, only on a bike path. “It’s too dangerous.” They say. “Aren’t you afraid of walking alone?” A friend once asked. “Afraid of what?” my honest reply.

You may think I’m a danger seeker, an adrenalin junkie. You are largely wrong and slightly right. You see, I’ve already lost all of the things that many may be afraid of losing. Oh, I won’t try to kid you. It wasn’t easy. It was really bad and for a long time. But while I slumbered, fear in and of itself disappeared. Fear of the worst because the things I’d feared most in life had already occurred. Fear of losing my child, my family, my home, every tiny scrap of possession and even my beloved dogs. My future, my present, my life. Yes, I faced the lighted tunnel. The fear of multiple coinciding, life threatening health issues. Fear of anxiety.

Fear of fear.

It all came to pass in a number of bloody battles, an unintended war fought by a weary woman on a war torn battlefield of a life.

As I lived my previously ordinary middle class life of relative caution and calm, the dangers of simply living it held tight their grip. My sleep walk years, a nightmare when merely waking up was fraught with danger; breathing itself, an insurmountable challenge.

They’re a blur to me now, those years. Thankfully, they were even then.

But I am given today.

You may wonder why it is that I so thoroughly enjoy my nature adventures, my attention to subtleties. I want to experience the clarity of it, the crisp, clear rawness of it’s detail. I want to feel the wide-awakeness of it on even the minute level. For in the minute lies the grand. Danger be damned.

Through the sultry sulphorous air I pedal to the Point, to Breakwater Village despite the breathing alert. Breathing I’ve finally mastered. At waters edge I lighten upon the most magnificent butterflies flittering in a butterfly balm bush for souls almost found. My eye strikes upon brilliant speckles of white, yellow, divinely detailed splotches of orange interlaced with intricate strips of dusted coal. Winged daydreams flit across blue, grace green, fly above fuchsia, lace into lavender, touching softly onto castles of vapor.

I am awake. I stay myself under a searing sun. I breathe salve of sweet, salty air as butterfly balm infuses my life like a dream.



Nana kept a beautiful yellow parakeet who she named “Happy” which she aquired before my birth. This “Happy” was her second parakeet of the same name.
I well remember Happy. Nana loved her bird and doted over him almost as she would a small child. She gave him toys, bells, cuttle bone, covered his cage each night at bedtime, “So he won’t catch a chill”, as she put it. Every morning Nana removed the cover then opened the little barred door to his cage.
Happy started his chirping and singing promptly upon sunrise. I loved hearing him wake up before all of us on sleepovers. He made me feel happy.
Nana suffered from clinical depression reflective of more than her share of tragedy in life. A strong woman, born of a strong woman, things heaped up and up on her, weighing her down.
Widowed very young, she lived alone. I’m quite certain that her tiny feathered friend with so many rapid heartbeats brought to her a measure of joy.
One morning Nana was hanging the laundry out the window to dry, Spontaneously, Happy took flight out into the city. At home, a few blocks away, we received the emergency phone call. All hell had broken loose when we arrived. Nana in sobs. The window open, wet laundry askew. Not a Happy bird in sight. Mom tried her best to calm Nana down. Eleanor and I wiggled in our seats, watched quietly with bated breath. Wishing Nana to feel okay, stop crying and Happy to fly back through the window. Hell, we were just little kids. But I knew I’d miss Happy terribly if he never came back because Nana might stay sad forever.
I don’t recall how it happened, but Happy did return to Nana. The small bird lived a long life with Nana, even for a parakeet. So yellow, cheerful and bright. Someone for her to tuck in at night before turning off her lamp and pulling up her covers. Nana’s depression along with it’s best friend, anxiety loomed over her for the rest of her life. She took simple pleasure where she found it. Joy in brilliant yellow feathers singing morning songs. Nana recognized the significance of open cage doors.
Many years later, as a young adult living alone, I acquired my own parakeet. A spitting image of Happy. I named him “Happy Bird The Third”. I mimicked Nana in caring for him.
Except for this one thing. I did ironically, learn this from Nana. I’m sorry he had a cage. His cage was for me. But one cannot keep another happy in a cage.
I left his cage door open. Happy flew in and out for his food and water. Came and went as he pleased. He loved me playing harmonica and would sit on the instrument and chirp as I played. Quite the character, that yellow bird.
Happy Bird the Third lived a long, free range life.
This little bird, wild and free, contemplating his bath, reminds me of Nana, melancholy, freedom and Happy.
And of how simple joys sometimes make a complicated mess all worthwhile.

NB Wilde