Farewell, little butterfly

On the second day of Little Butterfly’s stay with us, we drove to the nature center in search of a butterfly naturalist (yes, living in a metropolitan area has its advantages).  The retired lady staffing the information desk looked at me a little strangely, but I kept a serious expression on my face and lifted the boys up so she could see that this was a teaching moment.  It went something like this:

We’d like to speak to a butterfly naturalist.


Someone who knows what to do about butterflies.

We have a butterfly show …

Yes, but we have a butterfly.  A new baby butterfly, and we need to know if it’s warm enough to release her yet, and, if not, what we should feed her.

(seeing the boys) I see.  That’s a serious question indeed.  Let me see if I can call the butterfly expert and let you talk to her. (talks on phone)  She’d be happy to see you all.

An hour or so later, after navigating the trails to the conservatory, we knocked on the door.  An honest-to-goodness butterfly naturalist came out and spoke to us — two moms, three preschoolers, and a baby — and helped us understand what to do for her.

She said, “Trust nature.”

(She also said that her wings likely hadn’t had a chance to form properly if she was touched so soon after crawling out of the chrysalis, and that she would be bird food, but birds need to eat too, and … thankfully the kids had wandered off to the water fountain at this point.  I was not teaching a lesson about death here, my friends, but of treasuring life.)

Later that afternoon, with Stimey and our five boys, the time came to release her into the wild.  We helped her gently climb onto a piece of stiff paper and carried her outside, the queen of our little procession, shielded even from the wind.

We found a beautiful place to release her, with lots of the forsythia flowers that she had supped on in our home.  I had to help her off the paper, extending my finger for her to rest on, and then gently held her near the forsythia.

When she was ready, she grabbed on to the branch and held on with all her might.

We stopped to watch for a moment, as she unfurled her wings and showed us that she was all right after all.  She had been found in time.  Her butterfly wings had dried overnight in her warm terrarium, and she was ready to go.

We didn’t want her to leave us.  We didn’t want to have to say goodbye.

But we had done all we could for her, so we slowly walked away.

Setting her free


7 Responses to Farewell, little butterfly

  1. What a great idea, instead of just googling what to do! Such a lovely story…

    • whymommy says:

      Jessica, I googled the heck out of it! But it turns out there’s not a big community of butterfly “rescuers” online … 🙂

      Everything about this, from the kids’ wish to save her, to making a terrarium up for her, to the release on a beautiful day made this a great project for the week.

      (Is it wrong that it makes me teary to let her go?)

  2. Andrea says:

    No, you are not wrong to be teary as you let her go. I understand completely and fully. (((((((((((())))))))))))))

    I’m an “animal goof”, as I like to refer to myself as. 🙂 I have rescued all sorts of wildlife, including a precious squirrel named Lena (because he always leaned to the left, from his shattered back leg… yes, it’s a girl’s name for a boy squirrel but we didn’t care!). Lena went to the wildlife vet and stayed 2 weeks. I told them I wanted to release Lena back at our homestead because that was obviously familiar territory to him. I got a call 2 weeks later, saying that Lena’s leg as “as mended as it’s going to get” and it was time to release him back into the wild. The dr. was unable to pin his leg or anything because it was so shattered.

    When I picked him up, I asked the dr. what kind of chance Lena had, to survive. It was the middle February and the snow was thigh deep. *sigh* He said not much of a chance but nothing else could be done.

    Well, I just couldn’t release him. I bought a $150 huge bird cage and kept him in that. I looked online for all the information I could and fed him everything he was supposed to have. One sign that he was ready for release and was healed was that he was supposed to start hanging upside down in the cage and showing signs of being real “antsy”.

    11 weeks later the signs came…. and on a beautiful, sunny, warm Sunday afternoon in May, we released him. At first he didn’t want to leave but then he went… limping across the lawn into the side woods. I screamed to my husband.. “Oh no, he wasn’t ready to be released!! Look at how he’s limping so?!!!!” I bawled.

    I prayed and prayed for a sign… a sign that he was going to be alright. I kept checking on him, in the side woods, and he was huddled behind a big fallen branch on the ground, not moving a whole lot. Then, all of a sudden, in answer to my prayers, Lena started to climb a 30′ tall oak tree. He climbed it sturdy and strong… stopping to sniff and check-out lots of things along the way. My prayers were answered. He really was strong enough and ready for release.

    I never checked on him again after that…. and I never saw him again after that either. I kept looking in my backyard, where I fed my squirrels, sure that I would recognize him but I never saw him. I went around to all my neighbors and told them that if they ever had an injured squirrel in their yard, to please notify me. But no one ever did.

    That’s been almost 10 years ago and I still think of Lena often. I’m sad though that we never thought to take one picture of him during the weeks we had him. Perhaps that all for the better, I don’t know. But I do wonder about him even today, knowing he’s probably passed on to the next world…. and sometimes I even cry about him too.

    So see… there’s nothing wrong with crying when you let your butterfly go. I suspect you will cry about her off and on for quite awhile. We are kindreds in that way.


  3. Ally says:

    You are brilliant! What a great idea– consult a specialist. And what a great skill you just taught your boys, in such a fun way.

  4. Linda says:

    And there’s parenthood in a nutshell!

    Here’s hoping for the best for your butterfly…and all of ours.

  5. NoRegrets says:

    That’s so so nice. And perfect for Easter. Not sure what/if religion you are, but it is perfect for Easter.

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