Technically it’s built for vehicles and they must still come down, but all I’ve ever heard up here is the whispered secrets between the mountain air and these tall, thin branched pines.
The sun is out and down where the paths are paved in asphalt and striped with paint the temperature is in the mid to high thirties. That’s celsius and it’s hot. But up here the sun touches the earth as it formed itself and the heat dissipates into materials that know what to do with such warmth, so the air is crisp and warm but it does not suffocate the way that city streets do.
As I walk my shoes, brown covered in dusty brown, settle a bit into the ground and stir dust into the air like moon sediment; defying gravity as it swirls before landing on rock, plant, and more dust.
I don’t brush the shrubs. Not unless I have to. Maybe this is why the world frets of ticks and bugs that sting but I rarely even see them on my clothes. A master’s number of hours in these woods and I have yet to frighten a snake from surprise or collect any manner of blood-hunting insect. Like a member of the family, or a ghost, I move across the earth here in the only place I’d ever call home and not always.
Never the less, as I move something stirs. Maybe it’s aural -energetic fields mingling and twisting- because as I move so do hundreds of butterflies. They’re orange and black and nearly silent like me, but I hear their wings scuff branch tips as they take to the sky, swirl past me once or twice, and land further down the path.
I’m walking in a cloud of these creatures. When I stop they still themselves on branches. Like a child’s game they wait for me to move and again the cloud of fluttering erupts.
They’re beautiful and rugged at once. Their wings are a vibrant orange framed in black and yet at the edges they are tattered and torn. But they fly regardless and for that they are even more beautiful.
On the ground I see some resting. I’m aware by their colors and deftly step around them but I know these creatures and their postures, and something about this one is odd.
I stop to crouch down, knees apart and above the resting creature… but he’s not resting. Laying at a crooked angle, one wing in the dirt, legs curled under. This one is dead and as I wait for him to move I can’t help but reach down and give him a nudge, but this is not a butterfly. It is a former-butterfly. Now it is simply an empty vessel. Waiting to be reclaimed by the dust and return to the source.
I look up and see that, where I had previously not noticed, there are more.
The path is strewn with once-was butterflies.
Some sit at angles that look so very alive, but it is clear now that they are not.
I stand and a sensation of appreciation is upon me. That I am here to witness this moment in their cycle. In their path. I step onward and the swirl returns. Only this time I see it for what it is, or maybe for what I want it to be.
The last dance of a creature rejoicing in this world
That we have all been privileged to call home for
Whatever time is ours and by whatever means.
It is the celebration of a time well spent by those
That have nothing left to do in the end, but dance.