On the day of a cool change, the morning still hot and hazy from bushfire smoke, I walked to the gardens where the lawn had been watered. I walked over the grass barefoot and my soles became wet in the dew. An old woman ambled in my direction, muttering to herself, the flowers, and me:
The woman’s crop top was lopsided, her wisps of hair, dyed red and now faded, sparked awry. Joy and genuineness closed the gaps where some teeth used to be; and, palms gripped, she appeared to be holding into something as she wandered.
“Ahhcatchum!” she said again, now staring at me.
She approached and prized her palms ever so slightly and I peered into the small opening. A floral disc lay inside, though I knew it wasn’t a flower. The disc was breathing, rising and falling and gently repeating.
“Putcha hand out,” she said. “Nah — both hands or e’ll fly out!”
I cupped my hands into a bowl, and she let the breathing flower drop in, landing softly. It feathered out, and I could feel delicate, fragile wings.
“Ahhcatchum, look!” her eyes shone. “Yousta catchum when I wuz a girl – at home.”
I asked her how.
Her eyes glazed over, and she bent her knees, a young girl again, stalking an imaginary butterfly.
“Ya get in there…quietly…see ‘im there, and then — ” pincing her forefingers and thumb into a crow peck: “…ya catchum!”
Here lucid eyes returned to the present, smiling wide, staring up at me.
Perhaps sensing my novice palms in contrast to the woman’s, the butterfly found it’s moment, flickered about and escaped in a brown and orange flutter.
The woman chuckled, beaming as she watched her morning catch fly off, knowing it only had a few days to live and that there would always be more butterflies.
“Ya catchum too?” she said.
“I’d need to learn from you,” I said.
She chuckled again, and we parted then. Bid each other a “good one.” The grass was dewy still and the sun warm on my face and I wondered as I strolled beneath the oaks where the home was that lit up that woman’s eyes and how many butterflies she’d let go since.