Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I've been working on this short essay on and off since this summer. I think it's finally ready for others to read. These sort of posts are always different for my blog...but fun for me to post. This essay, along with my other two, will be gifts for La Nina some day.

The sun shines off her dark hair creating a gleaming white band that looks like a halo from the porch where I stand. As she walks into the mountain pasture, a resolute look crosses her face, wrinkling her brow and flattening her mouth. She surveys the land before her: green grass bordered by wooden fence that holds the wildness of the Colorado at bay. Around us, mountains reach toward the sky covered with aspen and a stream, hidden from sight, rushes by filling the air with lyrical music.

She grips the wooden handle of a butterfly net with her left hand and the white mesh hangs over her shoulder. Her gaze is never still: eyes dart constantly searching for prey. Standing there in the sun, suspended in stillness, I see her brows furrow deeper as if she is working a complicated puzzle.

At her feet, butterflies dance from green blade to wildflower and occasionally one flies skyward catching an unseen breeze and gracefully landing just beyond the fence line. Those dancers are her prey and she studies their moves with an expert eye. She is confident today, gone are the insecurities of yesterday. She knows how to capture these creatures. Her past successes have bolstered her and she feels invincible when it comes to netting the meadow’s constant motion.

Her pause in the field is as fleeting as her white and yellow dance partners’ movement and soon she joins their ballet by dashing off in one direction, then another. Many times, she swings the net at her target, coming ever so close, yet missing. Today, she isn’t discouraged by the failed attempts. She keeps at the task, knowing she’ll find success. And she does. With a flick of the wrist and a sense of timing only she understands, her net hits the ground with a “thwack”, ensnaring a ballerina for her private viewing. The delicate creature flutters with a sense of urgency. She kneels and gazes at the frightened creature.

“It’s okay, I just want to hold you,” she offers the frantic insect. Then she calls me over.

“Mom, I got one.”

Finally invited to join, I move to her side and crouch low. I hold a jar in my hand, in case her visit with this butterfly is an extended one. I am clear on my role: I’m merely her assistant today. She is leading the chase.

“Do you want the jar?” I ask my four year old.

“No, I told her I would let her go.”

I watch my daughter closely. A gentle breeze stirs her dark hair, and the smell of air, clean and fresh, awakens my senses. All of this goes unnoticed by her; she is focused on her catch. My daughter is teasing the butterfly into a corner of the net with one hand and slowly weaving her other hand into the white mesh. She never stops cooing to her white winged captive, and slowly its wing strokes slow, revealing a pattern of lacey stripes. Lightly, she grasps the bug’s body, careful not to touch its wings, and pulls it from its prison.

She’s learned to cup her hand around the fly and crack her fingers just enough to get a good look. More than one insect met its demise during her learning process. From my spot nearby, I can see this lacy dancer will survive her exploration. This gentleness is a newfound skill. I marvel.

“You’re so pretty,” she says into her hands.

Yes, you are, I want to say to my daughter. But I keep the thought to myself, not wanting to ruin her moment. I am still next to her, silent, vigilant, outside of the world she is creating. I feel distance and closeness in the same breath. She and I share something in these few seconds: we’re both only allowed to watch.

In the next breath, she stands and freezes again in the shining sun. Without warning she lifts her arms skyward and her butterfly sails over our heads. We shield our eyes to follow its progress and it flutters over the nearby fence into the wilderness. She spins with joy watching her friend and lets out a loud, impish giggle.

“Bye, bye, Mr. Butterfly,” she hollers with great enthusiasm. She kept her promise and her friend flew safely away.

I’m looking upward still, when I feel her cool hand slide into mine. I look down and she smiles up at me. As I gaze into the eyes of my haloed, 4 year old, little girl, I see she is my butterfly. Wild, elusive, never tame. A thought slowly drifts in my mind: My hold on her hand is just as tenuous, just as fleeting and just as short-lived as hers was on the butterfly. Someday I, too, will watch her soar from my grasp. Will I spin with joy and let out a boisterous cry of encouragement as she flies away? I wonder.

She squeezes my hand tightly and urges me to follow along on her next hunt. I keep pace with her, comforted with the knowledge at least I hold her for now.


  • At 4:49 AM , Blogger Ani said...

    What a beautiful essay - I could almost picture the day, the sun shining on your little girl's hair and her wonder at finally catching her butterfly. This is a wonderful legacy for her - thank you for sharing.


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