A creative non-fiction essay by Cristina Rodríguez Martín.
I have never liked butterflies. I have always said they remind me of insincerity. The truth is that with every wingbeat, to me they seemed to rustle lies. Undoubtedly, they are beautiful creatures who were made with high doses of sweetness, elegance and magic. But clearly, this is not a reflection I made when I was playing with Barbie, learning to braid my hair for the first time or when I started high-school. During those years I was scared of them. How could something be so beautiful when seen from far away and so incredibly ugly when it alights in the palm of your hand? However, my relationship with these suspicious beings changed drastically. It was at the same time that my love for flowers began to grow, that I started to spend my afternoons chasing those butterflies willing to fly among the flowers of my house’s garden. Where I once saw rudeness, I started to see grace. Moreover, they became one of those things I got inspiration from. They reminded me the importance of dreams and the urgent need to follow them, just like butterflies followed the wind.
The garden at home was lucky enough to receive daily visits of beautiful butterflies of bright orange colour. They had big wings and they seemed to tame the wind, when it is supposed to be the other way around. In spite of their beauty and majesty, those were not the butterflies that fascinated me the most. The ones that really captivated me were tiny white butterflies. They were the perfect example of fineness, but still they had a strong wingbeat. It looked as if they were constantly fighting against the wind and the idea of giving up. Did they want to tell me something? Is this what connection with nature is? Letting creatures speak to you in the only way they know? I started to see their white wings every time I lost faith: in me, in my dreams, in people. They appeared as a reminder that I was where I was supposed to be and that things should not be rushed.
One day, in a different country to mine, I was visiting an unreal place. Each centimetre of the temple was covered with majesty and faith. You could still hear the echoes of past conversations and feel the strength of prayers. As soon as I entered the place, I saw a butterfly. It was white and I have no doubt it was there to prove me that dreams were not out of reach. Being at that temple was an absolute dream, and I was not supposed to forget that.
Surprisingly, it was not the only time I saw one of those butterflies flying around me. On the contrary, they followed me during the rest of the trip. They enchanted me, and every day I woke up hoping to see one during the day. I could say they had turned into my lucky charm. If I did not see them, I would start to worry. Did that mean I was not going to have a good day? Of course it did not. The truth is that my days were filled with magic if I saw them. I was getting used to that feeling and I did not want to say goodbye to it. Sometimes, I felt a lunatic, but to know that ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs considered them the soul’s symbol appeased me. What a marvellous being!
Butterflies have always been connected with what the Greeks referred to as psyché. That day at the temple, while my friends continued the guide visit, I stood quiet and I let my mind fly while I observed the butterfly. I thought of the importance it has been given in different societies throughout decades. People from ancient cultures said that butterflies were the spirit, the soul of those who had died. Watching that butterfly fly around was really giving me inspiration. During those minutes, I could not help but think that maybe a warrior, perhaps a Buddhist, was trapped in that butterfly trying to make me reflect on the idea that it is in times of darkness that the chance of shining is bigger. In fact, the butterfly had to be first a caterpillar to become beautiful, bright… right?
Back home, a Wednesday like any other I was on my way to a coffee shop. There’s a library on the way that I love. Every time I walk by it, I cannot help but stare at the shop window for a couple of minutes. This day, I did exactly the same. I was staring at some travelling books that gave you a detailed guide of the best places to visit in a specific country. One of the books was focused on the country where I saw that white butterfly. Seeing that book made me remember that magical trip and what it meant to me. Lost in my memories, and not paying attention to the books anymore, a white butterfly flying near the glass woke me up. It could not be a coincidence, it must mean something. And I think I know what. Perhaps, this eternal being wanted to tell me: “Yes. You can do it. Keep dreaming and do not forget that from the ashes a phoenix may arise”.