Cattails flicker behind Indian grass; milkweed releases their seeds; cotton floats lazily under the tree canopies. The northern wind is slow. The pond water has stopped and reflects afternoon light. Thoughts are pushed away, refocusing upon the landscape stretching into the horizon. Shadows roam across the fields as the smattering of clouds and sun play. The oak trees on the eastern edge of the wetlands sing with the cicada’s drone starting and stopping in the same tone.

I sit upon a wooden bench overlooking the nature preserve. Distant fluttering orange and black wings with chaotic movements in and out of the bending prairie grass capture my attention. Slowly the pattern closes, circling in on itself, and comes nearer. And then it lands on the finger of my outstretched hand.

The soft black legs are gentle. The sensation travels deeply, past the physical and touches some nerve. Everything outside vanishes. Just this moment through my eyes, the butterfly perched on my finger, still and calm. I could only stare, my breath slow, consistent, and quiet.

Something foreign, a ripple, pushes the butterfly away, into the fields, and it is gone as quickly as it arrived.

Minutes pass before orange wings are seen near the tree line. At first, some distance is kept. I extend my hand with the palm facing upwards and the butterfly lands. The many eyes look in my direction while I try to keep every muscle from moving. Free of outside distractions, awareness grows and I see nothing but the butterfly.

Early on, the meetings with a butterfly felt random, like a path I crossed was not meant for me, that I had interfered with its purpose and intent. Over time the energy felt and projected became more peaceful, understanding, and inviting. I learned that crossing paths are for a reason intended for me. Next, I needed to internalize the meaning and decipher the lesson being taught.

The more time spent within nature, the real nature comprised of trees, water, dirt, the cycle of seasons and of death, the more comfortable and less questioning of its presence I became. The surrounding light becomes more clear, and focus shifts to the creature sharing its time and space with me.

In that moment I realize what the butterfly means as memories of my grandfather emerge. The many years being followed by butterflies as I walked the open fields and through deep forests, and the challenge to know why, what I felt in their presence, were finally gaining more answers than questions. Like a curtain falling over me, peace filled each space and void.

With a deep sigh, pure air is inhaled and exhaled, and thoughts that seem glued in my mind, are swept away. The trees move in smooth patterns, and the cattails within the wetlands stand tall. Each Indian grass top, each boulder, each stone, each pebble, and lily pad, are encircled by a halo. And I then know what I must do.

In the next moment, it disappears into the fields, never to return to this space or thread.

Awareness is not only focusing the thoughts while achieving a state of peace, but knowing and listening, being aware of guides. Part of awareness is the instinct that over time becomes a passing thought as you already know what to do, you know where everything is. Your reach and touch happen without the eyes.

Without seeing anything across open fields, I know the butterfly is here. I feel its presence even when my back is turned, and its place is far away. When walking or hiking with no thoughts, and my body and mind are in harmony, a question has been answered. I must choose to listen, regardless of any notion or hesitation, to the sign that I have asked for, and let my intuition guide me.

Poetry: Fracture 28 | Fracture 34 | Fracture 39

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William Ricci has been writing poetry for 20 years, with varied styles (free verse, haiku, experimental) and topics (fragments, European cultures, politics, creation, spirituality, previous lives and ancient times). His recent publications include a poem, "A Visit," at Whistling Shade, and an article entitled "Alaska: Experience and Open Doors" at The Loft. When searching for his muse, he travels, hikes, seeks sources of water and experiments with prairie restoration. Please contact him at wlricci@provenlife.com.

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