When I was younger, an age when I was old enough to know better, but still too fresh to recognize it, I caught a butterfly in my bare hands.

It was a Monarch butterfly. A yellow one. So, maybe not a Monarch, but the title seems nice to say.

I held the delicate creature between open palms and carefully spaced fingers. I could feel the wings bleat against the dirty bars, caked with mud and grime and tree sap and youth. I could sense the butterfly’s life as it contracted and expanded inside of my hands, fast at first and then slowly, carefully calming as it adjusted to the new world in my care. I turned it around, peaking at it through the gaps in its cage – the remarkable design, the life, the fear.

I opened my hand slightly, just enough for one yellow and black wing to emerge from its constraint. I closed a finger around either side of the wing and was surprised at how simply the color dusted off, like pollen in the wind. I was intrigued at how easy it was to mar one of God’s most beautiful creatures; it didn’t take malicious intent, just a curious thought and a swipe of my thumb.

I left the broken, mangled body in a pile of mulch, half buried.

Later in life, when I was young enough to know it all, but too old not to be told differently, I made the butterfly a symbol of freedom and change. I was going to fly away from my home, start new, be something different. But I also wanted to be reminded of how fragile life could be and how the most beautiful soul can easily be dashed by someone’s curiosity and imploring finger.

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