The Garden that Fed the Butterflies and Birds

What grows beyond must leave beneath

This small patch of soil, deep and earthy black. This would be the one, the place. I ran my hands through it, digging deep and bracing. I don’t like dirtying my hands on most occasions.

There was a time in which I plunged my legs into the dirt, back in a more carefree time of my life, a bed of bushes in Powell’s Landing. For once I felt free to kick downward and let the dirt caress the space between my toes. I sat there for nearly half an hour; it was a rare kind of joy.

My mom was not happy. It was the last time I did that.

But here with the soil, I hoped the seed would be good. It was good to me, imbued with intention, heart, purpose, more of myself than I’d brought to bear in times past. Closer to the soul.

I looked skyward, letting my eyes follow a distant cloud. There within my long view, rare birds, nearer still, the butterflies, flitting and darting, jubilant, and emerging free and happy, raking in air.

Sprouts grew.

Tender at first, dotting through the black soil, they peeped ahead and peeked up skyward with me. They unfurled and they embraced rain. The birds descended curious, heads cocked, eyeing the thin stalks - I imagined what they hoped. The butterflies were grateful for the green; they would land and rest their wings.

I shivered in the rain. I took a fingertip to a leaf to taste of water. I cupped my hands. I awaited sun.

Light came.

The ground would soak and firm; what little dots of sprouts without stood firmer, resplendent even if few, all special. Some would bloom. Others withered. Some birds, they did not return. This was not the garden for them. Many butterflies revisited, special ones remained. They would taste of the flowers, anticipating and knowing nectars.

I leaned down to spy them, inquiring after future fruit. I sat down within an empty patch of soil, at the epicenter of plant and sky. The sigh echoed. I held my hand to my mouth, breathing in through the nose. The fragrance of the nascent flowers faint. Fleeting.

Things bloomed.

I had looked up from the dirt, where my hands had embedded themselves into the ground, forearms weak, taking in a heavy breath. The shadows of petals, the orbs of fruit, flocks of leaves luring birds in likewise bountiful plumage, hope, and shelter. Branches rich, canopy aplenty. The butterflies danced with the higher and lower leaves, swaying in wing and wind.

Life flowed without. The sanctuary sprouted; it weathered the parching sky and feeble waters far better than I. The garden grew to forest, the forest cradled life, fed butterflies and birds.

My face had faced the ground for a long while. The treetops shaded me at rare times; then sun mostly punished. As clouds came across, I moved one shoulder across to look up and find the silver traces of the sky.

In my hand, a pear, shriveled, dried. I couldn’t take it to my sandy mouth. My eyes followed the wings and flight of many birds, many butterflies, some very dear, even rare, ebullient in flight — feasting on a bounty held in branches aloft, shielded from peril, sage in their safety.

From the vastness they could visit end to end, departing and returning, revisitation and restoration.

I’d found my place in this brown dirt, fixed skyward. Tears almost summoned. I imagined the vines coming to encircle me, to wrap around, take me back in.

I wonder what the pears tasted like.

The branches must have grown strong.

The shade had to have been richer in further corners.

A butterfly descended, landing on my nose. Wings brilliant, with only faintest trace of dark cocoon.