Ben and the White Butterfly

We have had many wwoofers come to be with us during our 3 years here at Homestead. ( World wide workers on organic farms – usually young people in their twenties come to do a work/trade situation – work for room and board and various instruction…, but sometimes older folk come, as well, who want to learn and study methods of organic farming – or simply have an adventure and meet other people doing interesting things ).  All of them but 2 have been very special to us, and sometimes they have had life changing experiences, finding a path opening for them that they were meant to take but had not yet seen clearly. Two young women felt like my adopted daughters, and each decided to stay on in Asheville, making a life for themselves there, each coming back to visit now and again, sometimes bringing their family to meet us, have the occasional slumber party or potlluck, and even attend some of the programs I offer at the retreat. The connections made go deep and run true.

Our last wwoofer, Ben, came to be with us for a month. As soon as I saw him, and saw his twinkly blue eyes and big smile, he had won me over. Instead of an initial handshake, he went right for a hug.  As the days went on, I realized that Ben, besides being the awesome guy he is, in his own right, also reminded me, in so many ways, of my son Matt. Little nuances, just the things he said and the way he said them, would send an “Oh my God – he’s so much like Matt!” feeling rushing straight to my heart.

As more days went by, Hawk and I got to know Ben more and more, and he, us. Good talks, sharings, details of our lives, caring, and support began to merge into a feeling akin to being a family. Ben’s father had died when he was only 14, a huge trauma for a young boy, and I think having Hawk here, a strong, wonderful adult man, to mentor him, having both of us here as, perhaps, a surrogate mom and dad in some ways, validating him, affirming him, appreciating who he is, was incredibly meaningful to him.

When the time finally came for Ben to leave, we were all procrastinating. A few more days went by beyond the departure date. In my heart of hearts, I wanted him to stay, but he had other commitments in place. It was time to go – for life to move on. He also had a hard time leaving, and Hawk finally said to me, when I mentioned one more time to Ben, half in jest, and half seriously, that just maybe he could stay:

“Ayal”, Hawk said.  It’s hard enough for Ben to go.  Don’t make it any harder on him”.

“OK”, I mumbled, my heart feeling a bit torn and scratched.  I realized that I had become very protective of Ben, wanting to make sure that he was all right, wanting the world to treat him well.

I have never cried when a wwoofer left, never even came close – never thought of it – though often I missed them very much and occasionally felt the twinges of an empty nest syndrome, or even simply that bit of ache, the vacuum left by a good friend having gone. But when Ben left, I wept. It felt as if I had said goodbye to a second son. I drooped myself down at the picnic table by the stream, amidst the flower beds, and cried. I felt heartbroken. Truly bereft.

As I sat there silently weeping, I noticed a small, white butterfly fluttering close by.

Head bowed, elbows resting on the picnic table, I had laced my fingers together in front of me, and gently the small, white butterfly landed on my forefinger. I sat very still, gazing at it, as the tears were running down my face. It danced around lightly on my fingers, occasionally losing its balance a little, but immediately righting itself. This went on for quite a while. It did not fly away or give any indication that it was going to fly off any time soon. Its tiny feet were a soft caress on my fingers, and then, it turned and faced me, holding onto my forefinger. It perched there, gazing at me with great intensity with large, maroon colored eyes.  It stayed this way, gazing at me, face to face, staring into my eyes. As it did so, it waved its tiny antennae, first one, and then the other, in a continuous bobbing, gentle motion, as if it were nodding at me, acknowledging me, still staring at me intently with those huge, amazing, burgundy, oval eyes. Even when it would slip a bit, it would right itself once again, turn around, and stare directly at me again. This was unprecedented for me. So astonishing, so loving.

“OK”, I sniffled, still feeling a bit forlorn but very impressed with what was going on – mesmerized, in fact.  “It seems that something important is going on here. I guess I’d better tune in.”  So, I closed my eyes to see if I could perhaps see who it really was… perhaps see it in another form, or, hear the message a bit more clearly.

I did see it – a beautiful, diaphanous, angelic presence. At that point, we had a very astute, informative, and loving conversation – about letting go, about love never dying, or leaving, in truth. This helped a lot, to say the least.

Finally, I was the one who decided I needed to get up.  it was still there with me, and if I hadn’t moved, who knows how much longer its comforting and sutaining presence would have stayed with me.  As I moved to get off the picnic bench, feeling very comforted and much better, it reluctantly flew away.

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