So I was sitting here a little while ago bawling my face off over an article in the paper about a couple in upstate New York who stinted the broken wing of a monarch butterfly and sent the recovered insect to Florida with a trucker who was willing to take responsibility for its safe passage. This is the second time in about a week that I've walked around my shop a wreck--a big emotional sucking chest wound--and I don't know what's happened to me. It seems I'm becoming my mother, who will drop a tear on you before you can say Hallmark Christmas movie.
Also today, I've been helping my sister edit poems and stories from her middle school-aged students via email. They're bright kids and well-taught, but they use language in the same way gangly-legged, pimply-faced pubescents french kiss. They're so excited about their new skill, and so they practice it with great enthusiasm, in staggering quantities, but without much discretion. And boy, is it messy. Time after time, I've written comments to the effect of, "So what?" (phrased in a more tactful way) and "Give us concrete imagery and examples instead of big, abstract words." I told one young lady that I cared less about her entire first stanza than one crumpled deer on the Maury River roadside. I went on to explain why: because I see that deer, picture it bounding across the road. I see it freeze in the arc of headlights sweeping around a blind curve, and then I picture it lying in the unnatural pose in which it fell. Why does that mean something to me? Because as a human, I identify with something else alive. I identify with the concept of going about the business of my life until waylaid, maybe even run over, by some uncaring juggernaut. My point is this: there is nothing more immediate and real to me than something else alive, in need, and nothing more human than trying to help. On the surface, it's an insect, and maybe the laws of selection dictate that you should leave it alone. Dig a little deeper, though, and it's a snapshot of the connection between all life. It's the illumination of one tiny act of humanity. It's a good news story in a time when we don't get many of those. It's getting outside the mindset of, "It's not my business--probably wouldn't make a difference anyway" and making the world better by the breadth of a butterfly's wing.