onward, onward

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We paddled to Liam’s eddy and I felt strangely blank. Here is a mother whose baby died, and here she is paddling a canoe, and there she is standing under the tree where the beavers have been busy, and it’s all different now, everything shifted, and look, she’s hungry, and it’s time for rice crackers.

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As we tied the canoe to the roof for the second drive home this trip, a large butterfly wanted to be followed so I did, lying on my side on the beach, admiring as it preened and sunbathed on the sand.

I am all joy! My wings, they are mine! They catch wind and eyes! I am beautiful.

We sat together for a while, me and the butterfly, and I cooed to him how lovely he was, how proud he must be of his wonderful yellow. He agreed and then went on to find adventure, and I wondered if in some deep recess he might harbour a speck of my baby and I thought to myself Onward, onward, brave son!

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Two hours later we pulled into the driveway. As soon as I opened the door I saw another on the grass, a different butterfly but identical to my preening friend, this one injured and fluttering pitifully. Half a wing missing from some misfortune, he told me

I was all joy, but now I am done

And I picked him up in my hand and cooed to him how lovely he was, how proud he must be of his wonderful yellow. He agreed, and I found a soft, broad hosta leaf in the shade where he went still and I thought to myself Onward, onward, brave son.