My beloved daughter, Podying:
In 1983 that segment of C-5 between Tandang Sora and Road 20 in the vicinity of Bahay Toro was a howl of grass and carabao wallows.
Back then, we appropriated that stretch of space on weekend mornings for such silly joys as angling for edible frogs (your mom had no inkling of such culinary yummies as frog legs fricassee or batuteng palaka so we had to free ‘em frogs right in our wee yard, hopping frogs were promptly pounced on and gobbled up by our pet cat), getting bareback rides on grazing cows, mushroom hunts and gadabout interface with the area’s humblest denizens.
Say, I took a snapshot of you and your kuya Bilog wading among clumps of kalug-kalog bushes, intently tearing up stems and flowers, probably wondering whether kalug-kalog is an estranged kin or a remote relative of soya bean.
You caught butterflies, scaly wings still wet as they eased out of cocoons latched on stems of balatong aso (dog bean) or kantutay (lantana) that teemed in those grounds. Too, the place teemed with butterflies. Where did those swirls of throbbing color come from? You wondered then. Those flying beauties were extant worm-like larvae. There must have been thousands of butterfly larvae feasting among dog bean or lantana leaves plus an assortment of wild greens whose names fled me then. Now I have the names down pat.
It’ll be sheer joy replicating that stretch of butterfly haven—slathered now with concrete and toxic fumes—even on a smaller scale elsewhere. Between you and me, I’d say I like to rummage through those serene times, pay homage to that past, and maybe rebuild that lost memory of your toddling years. Lovely, eh? So I’m gathering seeds of those weeds, wildling greens and runaway herbs that butterfly larvae fed on. The seeds will be sown at the onset of monsoon season.
Hah, build it—a butterfly sanctuary—and they will come.
Now, here’s a childishly silly reason for building a butterfly sanctuary. Call it a flighty excuse, something that smacks of wishful thinking.
A Native American legend has it that if you have a dearest wish, catch a butterfly and whisper such a wish to it. Butterflies heed Coughlin’s Law-- speak not unless you can improve the silence- so your secret wish is ever safe in their keeping. Set the butterfly free. It will bring your wish to the Great Spirit—He alone knows the thoughts of butterflies- and He’ll grant that wish.
By the way, “psyche” is the Greek word for both “soul” and “butterfly”. It stems from the belief that butterflies are human souls seeking reincarnation. To early Christians, the butterfly also symbolized the transformed soul and was held as a sigil of metamorphosis. Celts thought women became pregnant by swallowing butterfly souls—a belief echoed in feng shui cosmology that holds butterflies as symbols of fecundity and fertility.
Say, we had a sourpuss neighbor who detested caterpillars and she went out of her way to have our golden shower tree chopped dead. That tree served as nursery for a pale-yellow species of butterflies, the sort that some cultures believe as spirits of the dead, why, our slew of dogs often howled at that butterfly nursery tree—consider that an instance when dogs barked up the right tree. For years, that sourpuss wanted to bear a child; she remained aridly barren. Sad coincidence.
Remember that paean to butterflies—the Ray Bradbury time travel story dubbed “A Sound of Thunder?” The wee critter and its offspring can generate tons of viable seeds that translate to googols of fruits, food and fodder to sustain life and nurture ecological systems throughout time. In the Bradbury tale, a butterfly’s death canceled all that, which sent ripples through time and wreaked gargantuan domino effect on history.
Just wait and see, kiddo, we’ll have that sanctuary for psyche and soul soon—and with ‘em we’ll send a lot of wishes on the way to realization, mwa-ha-ha-ha-haw!