“Am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man, or am I a man dreaming that I am a butterfly?”
As preposterous as it seems many of us know this is true, waking up and looking at our funny toes, or our face in the mirror… who is this or what? I don’t know who said it or when I first heard it, but it echoes in my mind over and over again each time I wake up, get out of bed, walk down the stairs to start the coffee, or look out the window or walk out the door. Each and every motion, look, sensation, feels like it belongs to someone else. Or something else– like a mosquito.
It will be forty degrees today but it’s still cold walking to the bus stop early in the morning, and I wear my winter hat, gloves and jacket. My legs feel a bit cold as I decided against the long underwear. I was in a hurry and thought I could do without it.
What’s new? Same walk, same bus, same landscape. Passing through the courtyard of the building at the corner I saw something light and fleeting out of the corner of my eye. A rabbit running like an excited five year old along the opposite path. Then in an instant it leaped over a two foot stone wall. How quick, how energetic, how happy. I have not seen many rabbits this winter.
One night a few years ago during a long snowy winter, I walked out into the garden around midnight. It was silent and silver cold and there was a blue moon and there were three or four rabbits running back and forth on the white lawn— playing, dancing, chasing one another in that icy ballroom.
Where do they all go? Some secret underground cave or massive frozen arbor or grove… to the forest maybe far away. All the animals are there somewhere late at night and in the day, hiding, sleeping, watching, or maybe turning into phantoms one by one, transmogrifying night and day and floating by our lives like ghosts or ghouls in a fairy tale.
Yesterday they cut down the last of the two old magnificent willows in the park. I heard the buzzing of the chain saws even while I was in the house getting ready for work. Oh no. My heart. My heart rattled inside my ribcage like a frightened bird to hear that noise again.
They were such ancient trees with trunks too wide for human arms and hands to circle. You would have to be so big and tall, of prehistoric dimensions to grab them even a little. Oh my trees, that I passed every day for these sixteen years. They were a world of their own. The almost chartreuse hair, Rapunzel like, swinging gently to and fro in the spring and summer breezes. The first to start in spring and the last to go dormant in the fall…..they looked at least 150 years old but in reality they were perhaps around 50. So they were there in the late 1960’s….. I felt like the tree herder in the “Lord of the Rings” who said, upon seeing the destruction in the forest by the Orcs……..” These trees were my friends!” These willows were my friends, my companions and in some ways more precious, more beautiful, with more grace and life, than many a human being has ever been….
Yesterday all day long it was mourning…. on the way home on the bus looking out the windows all was dingy, dull and grey and I knew I had to avoid the park on the way home…..then halfway on the journey back a young black woman got on the bus and something turned. She was wearing a strange but lovely perfume that slowly shifted things around…. It smelled like heliotrope, that beautiful dark deep purple flower…the smell of vanilla, sweet violet and tapioca pudding, all these delicious scents filled the dull unhappy bus and banished for a little while, all the sadness of the day.