Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Butterfly Moments

Whoever is running the universe acted like the perfect hosts and hostesses this weekend, conspiring with one another to show me the best time ever.
“Look, she’s not here for long,” I imagine the amorphous blob in charge saying. “Let’s pull out all the stops.”
The special effects blob perks up. “ I could do that cool shooting star thing if you want.”
“Good. Make it happen.”
And it did. As if the yellow moon hanging low over the water making a golden path between Pacific Grove and Monterey and the sea lions’ barks carrying across the bay and the memory of 15,000 butterflies weren’t enough, we saw a shooting star on the way home. Pure magic.

Not that there were no hitches in the plan. My friend Stephanie traveled all the way from Michigan to accompany me on this trip and the morning after she arrived she caught a cold. My friends mobilized (as you faithful Muselings know by now my friends do) and Stephanie bunked with Kathy. I missed having my time with her but I can’t take another cold. By Saturday morning things looked hopeful but not 100% safe so Kathy drove Stephanie and Edith drove me as we made our way to Pacific Grove to see the butterflies. The Czar of fun (Lisa) was in Half Moon Bay on one of her innumerable wacky adventures and she met up with us for part of the trip regaling us with amusing stories and poetic descriptions of what we were seeing and running reconnaissance missions to insure we were always heading into wheelchair friendly space. Our scout called us Kimosabe, Kimosabo, Kimosaba and Kimosabu. (Hey I looked up the spelling in Wikipedia – this is the best I can do).

So I’ve been looking forward to seeing the butterflies for some time. I have kind of a thing for them, so much so that Ali has threatened an intervention if I buy one more butterfly-related item of clothing or piece of jewelry etc. The love of butterflies is a stark contrast to my persona as foul-mouthed wisecracker but there you have it. Hello, my name is Carla and I have a butterfly fetish.

Hi Carla!

So sometimes, but not very often, everything goes more than right. The universe conspires to show you the time of your life. We stumble on the grove on the best butterfly weekend of the year. It’s unseasonably warm and the monarchs are flying all over. I slump down in my wheelchair and rest the back of my head on the chair so I can look straight up into the tall branches of the eucalyptus trees where the most action is taking place. The sun is bathing the trees in light and the scene looks too magical to actually exist – a cinematographer’s vision of what the world should look like. It also looks like a snapshot you might play in your head just as your dying. Something that encapsulates your sense of what life is in all it’s grace. I look up and I believe in god, but not how you think. I believe we created god so as not to go insane trying to understand that which is incomprehensible. I didn’t want to believe in god before because the one I had invented was merciless and unjust. Now I believe god is just a magic moment, a butterfly, a laugh hanging in the air, a question with no urgent need for an answer. This is a god I can deeply love.
So I look up at this holy scene and it’s too beautiful to take and I weep, leaving a few puzzled butterfly tourists to invent a story about the sad woman in the wheelchair. I bet they all guess right.

I wonder as I weep if Stephanie will feel okay about recording this moment. She is recording our trip and since it is an audio recording she keeps asking “How would you describe this in words?” Lisa describes the sound of butterfly wings as a silk slip rustling under a cotton skirt and Edith describes the moment when 100s of sleeping butterflies simultaneously take flight and scatter in an orange blur as a heart bursting open. (Kathy and I compare the sound to tiny helicopters so no gold star for poetry this time.)

Sometimes the universe drops something in your lap and winks. I meet 2 African Grey parrots named Paco and Chanel at Cannery Row – the ultimate tourist trap. Kathy arranges for their owner to let me hold them – or rather they perch on my arms, which rest on the arms of the wheelchair. Paco has a great personality and I salivate for a bird. More and more I relate to birds, both from a singing and a flying standpoint. I dream about flying like a bird sometimes and my legs just dangle in the air. They’re useless in my dreams but it doesn’t matter. I also think, as my voice slips away, about Maya Angelou’s poem Caged Bird in which she says “The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still….”

I’m hoping I will get through Yoshi’s next week without any wheezing or spasms. That would be nice. I did pretty well over the weekend except when Edith was transferring me from chair to car by holding onto my ass and I started to pitch forward. She grabbed what she thought was my shoulder but was actually my boob. I’m trying not to fall as one of my dearest friends, sister of my heart gropes me in two spots at once and says “we need a guy for this job.” I crack up triggering laryngal spasms and every time I calm down enough to breathe, I crack up again and start wheezing. And repeat. I can’t tell you why it’s hilarious and not horrifying except to say there was one lone guy on the seawall where this occurs and he must have wondered about these women molesting a crippled woman then being very calm as she appeared to be having a scary asthma episode. He’ll be extra vigilant when looking for caregivers for his elderly mother – especially if she has a rack as nice as mine.

Sometimes the universe has a sense of humor.

We are getting out of the car to see harbor seals and sea lions when I drop a water bottle ,which a chubby boy about 9 years old picks up for me. He watches with ferocious intensity as Edith gets me out of the car and into the chair.
“What happened to you?” he asks.
“Oh, I’m sick so my legs and stuff don’t work so well,” I reply.
“Oh. Why are you putting on a seatbelt?”
“Well, this one time I hit a bump and I flew out of my chair. Kind of like if you go over your handlebars on your bike. Did you ever do that?”
“No. Yes.”
“ So I wear the seatbelt so that won’t happen. What’s your name?”
“Thanks for picking up my water bottle, Cesar. Are you here to see sea lions?’
“No. What did you hurt when you fell from your chair?”
“I skinned my knees.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well, I was by myself so I had to wait for someone to help me.”
“I would have helped you” he says with all sincerity.
“Thank you, Cesar.”

And with that little hypothetical gesture, Cesar has no idea of the gift he’s given me on this already amazing day. I would have helped you. One stranger reaching out to another for a suspended moment in time. It’s like being visited by an angel.

We go to the beach by the Lighthouse (yes, I know I’m going out of order, girls) and look out at the water. Stephanie a woman who exudes pure love from every pore is down by the water recording ambient sound.

“Do people tell you all the time that you’re adorable?” Edith asks her. Good question. Kathy is balancing precariously on the rocks to collect sea water in a bottle which she brings back along with a sea onion, seaweed and a little sand. She pours the sand and water on my foot. She has brought the beach to me.

It’s not every day that the sun shines down on you like a blessing and you move from marvel to marvel. It’s not every day that nothing goes wrong, the food all tastes good and the traffic is smooth. It’s not every day that something you wanted happens and it’s even better than you’d hoped. That’s why they call them special days.

I tell you what does happen for me every bloody day. Every day someone blesses me with their love and friendship whether that means a check in phone call in the middle of the day, or getting up to help me pee all night, or traveling to help me fulfill a dream or bringing me a beach. I dare you to find someone luckier than me.


Anonymous said...

I take your dare, who could be luckier than your Muselings for knowing you and having the privilege of loving you and being loved by you?

Anonymous said...

Friends! What joy!

Anonymous said...

lucky you?! lucky me, pal o' mine! we all need a little more 'cesar' in our lives, eh? wish I'd been there, too. wen xox

Anonymous said...

The gift of finding beauty in life is granted only to a few. You, my dear, are blessed, and the ability to share it is a double blessing. I cried at the beauty of the blog.
Nurse Bob

Anonymous said...

carla dear carla, i am in awe of the way you captured the weekend. it's astonishing. thank you for the gift of this gorgeous piece of writing. you are my butterfly moment this evening.

Unknown said...

That was breathtakingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you.