By Miranda Chop
For what it is worth, I did remember to turn off my porch light for the monarch butterflies migrating south, like the mayor requested.
The idea was to make the night sky very dark over our metropolitan area so as not to confuse the monarchs’ delicate navigation systems. I did remember, but it was many months later in the dead of night, far too late to make a difference.
I did not harbor ill intentions toward the monarchs. Certainly, I desired of their success.
It was simply a matter of habit. At night, I set the coffee pot, lock the doors, turn on the porchlight, and lock the doors again. Every night is the same routine—butterflies or not.
In the morning, the coffee brews automatically unless I need it faster. I wake in the usual way, with one dog or another expressing a need. I try not to complain these days; they have their own habits, and we learn to co-exist.
After I wake, there are fires to be lit in the winter. I do not forget to be grateful for natural gas heaters. My small bathroom’s most prominent and appreciated feature is a quaint porcelain wall heater. The gas must be turned up very high to get it lit. I use a long-handled lighter and turn my face away for safety. I know exactly what I am doing. I have done so hundreds of times, but hubris is a deadly game with explosive gas.
On rare occasions, the beauty of a longtime routine evades me. The audacity of structure makes my skin crawl—the only refuge found in seeking each day’s uniqueness.
One day, a bluebird feather floated right in front of my face. I saw no bird, nor was I near enough to any tree to account for such a close encounter. I remember that day, and that moment, because right when I saw the feather, my phone rang. A dear friend called to catch up with me. What a coincidence!
Another day, I met a friend at a museum. We looked at art we have seen hundreds of times, and new art made with beauty shop perm paper. A docent stopped us from taking a picture of a painting, which turned out to be the only piece in the whole museum we are forbidden to photograph.
Eventually, and with any luck, even the miracles become so routine those days start to blend, too.
After coffee, when the sun is up and shining, I move the curtains aside in my office for the tropical plants. Hot pink and red mandevilla blooms still pop when I remember to water them. A solitary pink face presses against the cold window. I detach it, blowing on the petals to warm them.
I forget to be bored for a moment, allowing a loose haiku to form in favor of the lonely flower. She dips and sways on my breath, as if dancing to her own poetry.
The flowers have no idea it is winter. How could they when they continue to bloom and sun like they always have? Time exists only in proportion to our awareness of it. Knowing time has passed is not the same as feeling time pass.
I did not feel myself aging or growing new laugh lines and silver strands of hair, but it did happen. The five-year old maple tree we planted could have been put in the ground last week for all I know, but it is bigger. I can see that much. The calendar says it is almost spring, and I have no choice but to believe it. This means the monarch butterflies are already headed north in some places.
I hope I can remember not to leave a light for them.
Miranda Chop is a lifelong writer, art lover, and activist for transformation through self-exploration. Currently residing in Fort Worth, Texas. Follow her on Medium. for more of her work, including feminist horror poetry, flash non-fiction, and memoir.
Editor: Dana Gornall