A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

The First Monarch Butterfly
by Rob Brian (Jan 2011)

††††††† My daughter leans out the window, squealing in delight at the sunflowers on the side of the road. She grins at me in the side mirror, watching me, watching her. A warm reddish glow, caresses the hay field as we pick up another round bale. Purple shadows stretch away long and distorted. The amber light of the sunset turns green into burnt orange. ZK is amazed at the world. I try to see it again as she sees it. The fresh cut hay smell is intoxicating. ZK watches a Monarch butterfly hover above the sunflowers as we stop to back into another bale. She is astonished and a little afraid, but she reaches out towards it, a look of pure joy on her face. I realize that it is the first Monarch Butterfly that she has ever seen. I wish I had a camera. Big bluestem reaches into the window and tickles her face, and a meadowlark calls out from the field. I try to remember the last time that I shared that kind of pure unrestrained joy and wonderment at the world. It has been a long time. 

††††††† Jane and Mama and Papa are in the truck also, and gossiping about the family and friends. George, ZKís brother, is in Papaís lap watching the bale come up in the back of the truck. We scatter a covey of quail as we leave the field and slowly head towards the house where we are stacking the hay. I like ending the days like this, all of us together, checking the cows and moving hay. We watch the ducks and geese landing at the pond and marvel at the beauty of the sunsets. We take delight in armadillos, and quail and roadrunners, and are serenaded by the coyotes. We sleep with the windows open at night, and in the early morning, we find ourselves under our blankets. The days are warm and the nights are cool, and slowly the leaves are changing color. The sassafras down along the creek are the first to declare fall with their deep red, then the cottonwoods and willows with their yellow and orange. The cool mornings have silenced the whippoorwills and the tree frogs in the early hours, and we no longer hear the mocking birds and robins. But the cardinals and blue-jays are there, and now large flocks of redwing blackbirds are roosting in the red cedars in the canyons. We drive slower on the red dirt roads now, as the deer are moving around more. The snakes are no longer to be seen in the roads except on the warmest of days. The farmers are planting the wheat and working up their fields, much to the delight of the hawks that swoop down on the rabbits and mice that wait too long to move in front of the tractors. I canít wait to see all these things again for the first time through my babiesí eyes. I canít wait to take them fishing at the pond, and build their first campfire. As I get older, my time is no longer measured by promotions, or successful business deals. My seasons are marked now by moments like my daughterís first Monarch Butterfly. I think when you die, the value of your life is measured in perfect days, days where you shrugged off the oppression of your burdens, and like ZK, experienced the pure joy and wonderment of the world around you. And of course, you will realize that you could have had more if you had just turned off the TV and paid attention. But we all are rubbed sore and bruised with life, and do the best we can. We are thankful for our fleeting perfect days, and sunsets, and little angels who remind us how to look at the world.

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