Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The Dog and Butterfly
A picture of Sparky the Dog
For reasons that are both quite complicated and paradoxically simple I don't get to make my mental health trips down to the coast like I did a few years back. These trips were never longer than a weekend but the ability to spend a few hours walking on a quiet beach did a lot to make the always pleasantly hellish suburban existence I am forced to endure tolerable. I started making these trips when my kids were too young to be involved in school or social activities so whenever my lovely spouse started showing signs of demonic possession I would load them up and drive to Charleston to see the sights, or further down the road, to the beaches of Pawleys Island.
Once my son, Darth Spoilboy, and later my daughter, Darth Wiggles, got older and became involved in the usual activities associated with children of their age that was when my duties as a dad started to exert a pull on me like gravity making me forego my trips. Another force that has only grown stronger over time tying down to home is the maintenance required on both the yard and house. Nothing says suburbanites are just a new type of serfs forever bound to their small plots of land more than seeing some fool spend an entire Saturday trying make his yard look like a miniature English estate. Taking care of the exterior and interior repairs of the average American McMansion is a never ending job where once you think you have reached the end of the “Honey-do list” the clueless homeowner returns to square one just to restart the cycle yet again.
Because of these obstacles and a few others like a job schedule that throw a monkey wrench into my weekend making drives down to the coast more exhausting that relaxing I was forced to find a different way to decompress. It was the establishment of my tiny vegetable garden and the purchase of a plastic lawn chair that allowed me to create a place in my backyard to find solitude and restful contemplation.
My little spot is nothing to brag about, but due to its particular position in my backyard, I have close to absolute privacy from my neighbors. Combine that with a tree that provides shade I can comfortably read or listen to music even on the hottest of days. More importantly, on the days no one is running some damn piece of lawn equipment I can sit back and listen to birds, enjoy the breeze, and watch the insects flutter about while thinking profound thoughts about space, time, and the nature of existence.
Since I work third-shift, my usual afternoon habit once I get out of bed is to take both the dogs outside to allow them to do their business in the backyard. As the dogs wander around, I spend about twenty to thirty minutes watering the garden and then reading. All things being equal, it's not a trip to the beach but that short period of time does allow me to decompress slightly, at least enough not to want to strangle many of the people I have to deal with at work.
A couple of days ago it was a particularly nice afternoon with a steady breeze to cool things down and enough clouds overhead to take the edge off the horrendously bright sunshine. Adding to the pleasantness, at that moment none of the neighborhood serfs had any lawn equipment going allowing the sounds of nature to have free reign of the environment. The one final element that almost had me as close to a restful bliss as possible was a yellow and black butterfly that kept fluttering around my small garden.
While I feel secure enough in my manhood to openly write that I admire butterflies for their natural beauty and gentle grace it is a safe bet no other male in the area where I live would do the same. That being said, I sat there in my cheap plastic chair watching that marvel of evolution fly from one plant to the next. It wasn't just that small creature's beauty, I was also amazed at the physics that allowed such an awkward looking lifeform to take to the air. While I am agnostic, as I watched that butterfly I was almost overwhelmed by a spiritual feeling. Now this was not a coming to Jesus moment, it was more along the lines of a spiritual encounter Neil deGrasse Tyson or the late Carl Sagan might have involving a deep admiration for the complexities of life on our planet.
As I was pursuing this natural bliss, both my dogs are also still outside generally doing what canines like to do, that is sniffing everything their noses find interesting and then peeing on that item. So as I was watching the butterfly I really didn't pay attention as Sparky the Dog ambled closer to my garden. The butterfly, not really aware of his surroundings or the larger lifeforms nearby, continued to flutter from one plant to the next probably quite happy to find so many flowers on my tomato and pepper plants. That turned out to be a fatal mistake.
Sparky never gave any indication that he noticed the butterfly, but as the winged insect innocently jumped from one plant to the next my dog did a small leap and caught the creature in his mouth.
“Sparky!” I yelled upset that he had total destroyed my moment of spiritual Zen.
Sparky in turn just looked up at me like I was crazy and swallowed the butterfly. With the moment now ruined, I got up and went back inside the house.
“It would serve you right if that butterfly was poisonous.” I told Sparky as we walked up the steps of the backyard deck. I swear, the dog seemed to look up at me again and smile. It was then I decided I've got to figure out a way to start taking my trips to the coast again.