Monday, August 31, 2015

The Girl, The Book, and the Butterfly

It was a late summer day when Washington Square Park was shimmering like a fairytale. For August, the day was surprisingly cool with a hint of September in the air. The water spraying in the fountain was glistening in the sun as the streams arched over the pool and shattered into glistening beads plummeting to the basin. The water churning in the basin was an obstinato punctuating the sounds of birds, conversations, and strands of music permeating the most remote places. Washington Square Arch stood like a radiant entrance to a land of dreams.

For Sylvia, the park was an inspiring terrain where she could wander at will and find adventures unfolding among the day's population,  animated and engaged in playing music, dancing, performing, or lying about the the lush green lawns in the sun or sitting on shaded benches. Washington Square was Sylvia's retreat where she could become anyone or remain anonymous.

With her smartphone, Sylvia took many images in the park often posting them on FaceBook or sharing with her friends on the Internet. She had an eye for noticing things that often went neglected or remained obscure. One would think of her as an artist had they spent time with her, but she was content to masquerade as a different person everyday, blending in with the panorama that was the daily menu of a park populated by people who came from all over the world to celebrate life in that tiny patch of land in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Sylvia understood Washington Square, and although her life was often in a hurry, she disciplined herself to slow down and enjoy the moment. Washington Square was a haven that she sought out whenever she visited New York. She had lived in NewYork City adopting it as her second homeland when she was an international student. In those days she had been too busy to interrupt her almost frantic pace.

So even though Sylvia pursued a crowded schedule, she found time for the park. She loved to go there with a book and immerse herself in the fading summer splendor.  All too soon the days were growing short, and soon she would leave New York to return to a different life, a different pace. She was reluctant to leave because there was something different about her place in the world, her place in the city, but she was looking for some clue to understanding a new feeling that had emerged during her visit.

Years earlier some negative experiences had taken her out of herself and out of her trajectory. Even though she thought she had made peace with that part of her life, she realized she had returned because she knew she had left something behind. She didn't know what, but she felt drawn to its mystery.

For Sylvia, books were a different way to noticing the world through other eyes and ears, through other tastes and boundaries. Books were a haven just as much as the park. Today she went with a book she had known before, but wanted to revisit. This book was comfortable and a loving description of a way of life about music and how we inhabit the world. She found a spot beneath a tree and lifted the book for a moment as though to christen it to its new surroundings. She raised it toward the sun.

Suddenly a butterfly appeared, almost as though it had materialized from her imagination. It flew above her and then circled around, lowering toward the book and then fluttering upwards in an elusive maneuver.

Sylvia was transfixed. Somehow this beautiful creature was sharing her personal journey. She watched the path of the butterfly almost as though there was some hidden code in its trajectory that defined her presence in the world. True to her experience of documenting her being in the world, she captured an image of her companion as it seemingly found the trust to settle comfortably on the book in her lap. Later she would discover that this butterfly was a Red Admiral, looking very regal as it briefly shared her time and space.

Sylvia realized her life was filled with chance encounters that as she looked back were maybe not so much by chance, but a series of discoveries in which noticing the smallest moments created a tapestry that shaped meaningful times in her life. It was as though all the negative energy of the past was drained away on this idyllic summer day... with a butterfly reminding her that beauty was always at hand in trusting and living in the immediacy of the moment.

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