A while back, Natalie and I were watching Ben & Holly, a cartoon about fairies and elves living in the forest, when she asked me if such fantastical creatures were real. 

“Most people would say no,” I said. “But who knows? Just because we haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they aren’t real.” 

“So, there could be fairies?” 

“Many people think that if they can’t see it, measure it, or do experiments on it, then it doesn’t exist. But there’s a lot about the universe we don’t understand. Much of it’s a mystery.”  

“You can’t see God,” Natalie said. 

“A lot of people think that too,” I said. “But maybe, whenever we see something beautiful – like a rainbow – we might be getting a peek at what he’s like. In the end, it’s all in how you look at things. And who knows? One day you might go into the garden and find Ben & Holly playing between the flowers.” 

Are there fairies, angels, demons, and trolls hiding under bridges? Probably not. But just as I started writing this post on my porch, a butterfly landed on the edge of my computer screen, slowly beating its wings as if taking a rest from his travels.  Marveling as the rays of the noonday sun colored through its wings like light falling through a stained glass window, I remembered that story of butterflies and fairies have been connected in humankind’s consciousness for millennia.  Ancient man, awestruck and unable to comprehend this delicate creature’s ephemeral beauty in lepidopterological terms, probably expressed their wonder towards these insects by imbuing then with mystical powers, creating the Tinkerbells we know and love to today. If that’s the case, then fairies have been hiding in plain sight for a long, long time. It’s all in how you look at. 

After a minute, the butterfly flew off my screen and fluttered to and fro until it started swirling between the lilies my wife planted in front of our house. Alas, my daughter wasn’t home, robbing me of the opportunity to show Natalie that fairies do indeed – in a sense – play amidst the flowers. But If I saw an elf, then I might need to book an appointment with a psychiatrist. No matter. I’m sure the legend of elves originated from nature too. 

Eventually the butterfly flew out of sight, and I thought, once again, how this simple insect might also be a signal of transcendence – a signpost dimly pointing towards a greater truth. In addition to fairies, butterflies have long been associated with resurrection. After spinning itself a cocoon, the caterpillar goes dormant within its chrysalis – almost to the point of death from our perspective – only to emerge as something completely transformed. Perhaps this familiar yet infinitely strange process is nature’s way of revealing the good news underpinning all of existence – that life will always be filled with tomorrows. Perhaps the life we live now is a cocoon of sorts, gestating us until we emerge from darkness and become what we were always meant to be, happily basking in the rays of the warm sun. Then again, it could just be a bug, living only for a couple of weeks and nothing more.  

I guess it all depends on how you look at it. 

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