Last summer when I was in Les Issambres (Southern France) I spent several afternoons hiking up a hillside with my camera, a butterfly net, three glass jars with holes in their lids and the little boy I babysat (Bill). He and I would spot hundreds of beautiful butterflies and proceed to capture them. Many we let go, but a few were kept to be added to Bill’s collection.

Some of those were let go because they weren’t the right species or because Bill already had them in his collection. Others, even if he was hoping to have them in his collection were let go for a more humanitarian reason. See, some of the butterflies we caught would just sit in the jar, content to be resting in one place. But others would fight, repeatedly bashing their wings against the jar and lid. A powdery film would begin to coat the glass and pieces of their wings could be seen breaking off.

Butterflies wings are very delicate. Even a touch by a human hand can completely destroy the wings of a butterfly, rendering the butterfly flightless. When a butterfly would fight to be released I would quickly call for Bill who, seeing the struggle and the wings begin to deteriorate, would scream for me to unscrew the jar and release the delicate creature. “Let it out!” he would shout at me. And so I did. The butterfly would fly from the jar and flit to the nearest flower or tree where it would stay until it’s heartrate dropped back down to normal. Then it would move on, flying from flower to flower and enjoying the liberty to do so.

My jar has been opened again and instead of racing out again, I’m taking a timid look around. I’m afraid of what’s waiting in the big world outside. What does one do outside of the jar? I wonder if the butterflies who escape ever find a flower they feel like coming back to again and again for the rest of their lives. I wonder if they are destined to wander aimlessly from flower to flower, hoping never to be caught and trapped in that little jar again…