A butterfly swarm

by DRM


When I still believed in fairies, I walked alone up a mountain in the west of Ireland, the bog slipping away as I pushed along a faint trail past a hidden lake and beyond a stony ridge.

I believed I was someone who walked alone in the wild, but I wasn’t. I was in a fevered state. I was short of breath. My mind was racing. There was some girl I longed for but couldn’t talk to. There was a group that I wanted to be part of but couldn’t get comfortable with. There were things that tore at my heart, they were so loud and clear-sounding, but I couldn’t get them said.

A bag was slung across my chest. It held my flute, my notebook, a chunk of cheddar cheese, a round of bread, a chocolate bar and some water. The worn canvas of the belt chafed against my neck.

After a while, I came to a bowl in the hill. The rocks dipped down into a brilliant green canvas. The heather was blooming and strong. Buttercups swayed in grassy patches. The sun slipped in over the ridge. The walls of the bowl were covered in shadow.

This was a place, I thought.

I slipped and scurried down the side, settled myself on a broad rock. I crossed my legs, sore from the walk, not really very limber at all anyway.

When I played my flute, the sound echoed and danced.

Then I was in the middle of a vision of white. A swarm of butterflies danced around me like whitecaps on a bay. There were hundreds, bouncing up and down in the slight breeze.

What I saw looked like a loud sound, but I was surrounded by silence. My mind roared. I didn’t know who I was. Was this a sign from God, a gift from the fairies, a moment of truth? I looked around for something else, my flute just apart from my lips, small beads of condensation on the silver mouthpiece.

The wind rushed and carried the fragile flock away. The sun skipped and the air cooled.

I made my way back out of the hills onto the bogs and walked a quiet road into a little town. In the first pub I came to, I sat with a pint and wrote in my notebook.

“The stories have it that the fairies will travel across the bogs and into the hills in flocks of gentle white butterflies,” I wrote.

I made that up because I wanted it to be true.

What was true was that my longing drew shadows over my eyes. I was blinded by discontent. I believed that there was one true answer outside of me — true love, true friend, true faith — when in truth, that answer lay inside of me, a true acceptance of my own journey. It would be many years before I would understand.

Sitting in that pub, I waited for something to happen. I watched the men drink and talk. I waited for someone to say something to me. No one did. I drank in silence and then headed out into the night to find somewhere to sleep.