A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


A Butterfly Flies In From Paris - Par Avion
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I phoned Rebecca and said,"¿A qué no sabés lo que llegó hoy?" (Guess what arrived today.) Her answer was quick, "Llegó el regalito de Homero." (Homero's little gift arrived.)

That yearly and pleasant routine while not exactly on schedule this time (the snow?) was delivered yesterday. Homero Aridjis, the butterfly man, the man who loves butterflies, came through with his little present, all the way from Paris. In the envelope there was a Mexican tin Christmas ornament. It was a most unusual one as this is the first butterfly Aridjis has ever sent me. It has to be special. How many get a butterfly to fly all the way from from Paris (Par Avion) on December 30 when the snow outside is not melting?

The little ornament, which will hang with all the other tin ornaments from a string of red yarn on the front living room window by the Christmas tree, made me want to look into one of my favourite books by Aridjis, ¿En Quién Piensas Cuando Haces El Amor? (In whom do you think when you make love?) Alfaguara, 1995. This novel is about a Mexico City in a scary future based on a very scary present when pollution is killing the great cypresses of Chapultepec Park and birds plummet from the sky like stones. The narrator of the novel, Sanchez is present when María, twin sister to Rosalba finds out that Rosalba has died. Rosalba and Sanchez go to the burial.

Perdí noción de la hora, había dejado mi reloj de pulsera en el bolso y el bolso en la recámara de Rosalba. Una mariposa se posó en mi frente. La cogí con la mano.

Delante de nosotros pasaron docenas de mariposas monarcas. No las veía desde mi infancia. Desorientadas anduvieron entre las tumbas y los árboles muertos, quizás en busca de agua. Una de ellas, como sobreviviente de la extinción biológica y como fantasma de migraciones pasadas, fuera de lugar y de tiempo, se posó en el pelo de María

I lost all notion of time, I had left my wrist watch in my bag and the bag in Rosalba's bedroom. A butterfly alighted on my brow. I caught her with my hand.

Dozens of monarchs flew by. I had not seen them since my youth. Lost they flutterd among the tombstones and the dead trees. Perhaps they were looking for water. One of them, like a survivor of a biological extinction and like a ghost of past migrations, out of place and time, rested on María's hair.

I have read this beautiful passage so many times but only today did I bother to look up the origin of the Spanish mariposa. Hidden in the word is "pose for me Mary". The verb posar in Spanish has the double meaning to pose and to rest.

The arrival of the little tin butterfly made me think that somehow, while a little bit early for her spring migration, she is a monarch that knows where home is.


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