We planted our garden with a diversity of trees, shrubs, ground cover and grass. It has always been a work in progress, much like myself. My father and the family all put our heads together to plan it. In one corner stands a Mountain Ash that bears feathery white blossoms every spring that turn to bright orange berries which the birds devour later in the summer. There is also a cedar, a red sand cherry and a lilac whose fragrant flowers beckon one closer. A variety of bulbs that blossom each spring bring the delightful yellow daffodils, dark hearted tulips, snowdrops, and scented hyacinths. Perennials like the hostas, weigela, roses, the butterfly bush and annuals like petunias and marigolds add to the visual delight of this small space. It is an inviting haven for rabbits, squirrels and especially our winged friends – the birds, bumble bees and butterflies.
The monarch butterfly is one of the honoured guests that gently sips nectar from the depths of the many flowers and flits from one bloom to another. Its resplendent orange wings bordered with white dots reminded Dad of the large rattan or fabric curtains that the pankha wallahs would pull and release back and forth to bring relief to the nobility in palaces on hot days in the tropical heat of Indian summers.
How we enjoyed sitting outdoors with my dad, who was Papa to the grandchildren and Uncle to everyone else. We spent many cool mornings of early spring, warm sultry summer afternoons and chilly fall evenings on the deck that overlooked our little garden.
That was till the early spring of the year when dad finally succumbed to an illness that slowly dried the marrow from his bones, the lifeblood from his veins, the light from his eyes and the smile from his bow shaped lips. On a blustery day in April, at ninety-three, we bid him farewell, glad that he was able to float away, leaving the frailties of his mortal body.
That did not prevent us from spending time on the deck as usual. We would reminisce about the happy memories of Dad watching the squirrels chasing along the fence, the cardinals’ flash of red on white winter days, the loud screech of the blue jays, the robins feasting on the berries and the bumble bees that came for juice (or beer) and of course the inevitable butterflies. Dad did consider himself the king of his domain.
One cool morning, when the colours of spring had not yet sprung, as I was halfway through my breakfast, I was astonished to find a large monarch flying all around me then alight on the door frame next to my chair. I gingerly reached over, not too close for comfort but close enough for it to feel my presence. And there it sat. My husband quickly slid past and grabbed his iPhone to record the moment and the spectacle. I had never had such an intimate encounter with one of these cherished harbingers of goodwill. With tears in my eyes, I watched my Monarch.
“Thank you for letting me know that you know how I miss you and that you are still with us,” I whispered.
It left as smoothly as it arrived, returning from where it came. I did not see another butterfly till many weeks later when the garden was alight with flowers.