The Butterfly the Finch and the Dragonfly

Walking from our home to the train, there is a finch on the sidewalk. Decomposing. Deteriorating. Quiet.

Walking across the river into the Tower for work, across a long courtyard full of flower boxes and lush, expensive landscaping along the Chicago River, rests a tranquil little minute of an oasis amid the sky rises and the concrete jungle that is our city. Boats slowly pass and create a delightful ripple in their wake.  The sound is gentle and soothing as a wave good morning.

There is much life in our fair city.  Even the dark parts.  The shadows.  The lurking sadness of the flipside to industry holds a particular charm when you appreciate and have compassion for how it blooms.

I see many sweet little birds each day, but today was different.

Today time slowed down as I watched the finch swoop in.  He took careful aim and lurched when the time was right.  When his prey was vulnerable and ripe to be plucked from the crack in the ground.  Today I watched a teeny tiny little finch go after a dragonfly almost it’s same size and viciously peck it right to death.

I couldn’t turn away.  For one thousand hours I stood as a statue voyeur. While one thousand people hurried by, I stood silently observing the carnage.

Staring and realizing nothing could be done to stop it without causing chaos to the natural order, it wasn’t my place to disrupt this anyway.  It was awful to watch.  But I couldn’t look away.  I watched the light extinguish.

The light fell out on that dragonfly and another living being caused it to happen.

The circle of life cannot be denied.  No matter how you may shield your eyes or pretend it doesn’t matter, it’s still happening.  Right now.

I stopped fearing death for myself a long time ago.  I got so close to it myself and craved its sweet release.  I could very well be there again some day.  I’ve walked over too many bodies to count.

What I fear is the loss.  Being left here without.  The missing.

We went to a butterfly house last weekend and the kids were gleeful amidst a room full of blissful butterflies. They weren’t touching or disruptive of their patterns. They were ecstatic to see them flying and their pretty colors.

Then my friend and I found one laying limp, barely fluttering, with a hole in his wing.  She tried to prop him up, thinking perhaps he was stuck in the mud.  As my boy asked, “what’s he doing?” my friend replied, “he’s sleeping” for he had stopped moving altogether.

We will have to explain death soon enough.  And when we do, it will be sad because it is always sad.  And that’s ok.  Death is sad.

Having kids makes you realize you have to explain a lot of things you never really thought so much about, but rather, just experience as part of the human condition.  The natural condition of life and death.  For all living beings.


“I miss him.” He says when someone or something important to him is gone out of his sight. “Me sad.”  I know buddy, I miss him too.  It’s ok to be sad.

They are learning loss and grieving and that’s good.  That’s all part of life.  We just don’t need to throw too much at them too soon.

The butterfly and the finch and the dragonfly.  Life and death.  We have constant visions of the light and the dark and we can look away or watch and appreciate it for what it is, what is was, what it means.  And then we continue to move on and heal.


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