We Need to Take Care of Each Other

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a dead butterfly into a perfect setting, in considering the life of beloved chef and author Anthony Bourdain of CNN's show Parts Unknown.Leaving the house one morning last week, I noticed a bright Monarch butterfly flying around the spirea bush outside my front door. I stood a moment watching it flutter over the tiny nectar-rich blooms, the most perfect setting a butterfly could want. Then I left in a hurry. Later that day, I noticed the butterfly was still there. It was flapping its wings only occasionally and seemed to be settling in for the night. Strange how it was still there, I thought. Maybe it was laying eggs, or maybe it was a sign from my daughter who died. I went about my long list of things to do before bed and forgot about it. The next day I found the butterfly. Still there. Only now it was lifeless.

When I tried to gently remove the poor thing from its perch, I found one of its antennae was wound around a small branch. The butterfly had gotten itself stuck. And now it was dead. All that time, I never noticed it had been struggling. If only I had reached out my hand when I first saw the butterfly, I could have shooed it away and maybe it would still be alive. If I had spent more time, I might have seen it was in trouble. I could have helped.

That was the same week Anthony Bourdain took his life. CNN, the TV station that keeps me company as I photoshop, was broadcasting information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. In between they were playing clips from the celebrity chef/author’s popular world-travel documentary, Parts Unknown. It was hard to believe. The man who had everything. A perfect life. Now over. Where did he get stuck?

It made me realize we need to take care of each other better. We need to slow down and pay attention. Love, listen, and reach out more. Sometimes I can be oblivious to the inner workings of my fellow humans and other creatures around me. But these are the ones I share this time on earth with. We are all related. And each one’s well-being matters.


How do you help a friend who’s stuck in a bad place? And what can I do with this dead butterfly, too beautiful to throw away?


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6 thoughts on “We Need to Take Care of Each Other

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I’m a sucker for a Monarch photo–and then your sad, sad ending. A lesson for us all. I get so attached to those creatures who thrive in this crazy world like the bluebirds (high on my list at the moment as I watch a second nesting that seems to be going well with a male guardian a lot like your dad–watch out, look behind you, you don’t know what will happen next, don’t leave unless I know where you are…). Monarch are so precious. It’s essential to remember to stop and watch and witness. My friend and I were able to save a trapped garter snake this week. I wanted it to be a kid from Honduras, but instead a garter snake. If Monarchs arrive and I find caterpillars, I’ll raise a few. And I love Lucy’s comment and agree.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yow, Elaine. I didn’t know about the possibility of Monarchs leaving larvae or caterpillars. Unfortunately I found another dead butterfly here. The House Where Butterflies Go To Die. I planted the spirea two decades ago, to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. But this year, it feels like I have a Hospicare for these beautiful creatures. Witnessing – yes. It makes me not so squeetchy about insects, having their lovely remains sitting on my counter. I think I will appreciate the live ones more now that I see and understand the fragile workings of their wings and tiny bodies. Yes, precious. Not sure finding a snake in my garden will have the same effect.

  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    So so sad…I can imagine just how you feel, Robin. We admire the beauty of butterfly wings and we see butterflies as symbols of the afterlife, but fail to look closely enough at them, at the tiny, homely animals they are, in between the gorgeous wings. I agree that people focus too much on themselves and too little on the sufferings of others, who may be putting on brave faces and saying, “I’m fine, really.” You are so good at knitting together the small and large events in your life to whole observations that encompass the universe.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Lucy, you are so kind. Thank you. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in myself. I’m trying to extend what happens in my daily life to our universal story but it doesn’t always work out. There are things that are just too painful to think about or write about. I’ve wanted so much to write about those children and parents, separated at our southern border. It keep me awake nights, knowing the heartache of not being able to hold one’s kid. But I find I cannot immerse myself in all the sadness all the time. It is frustrating to hear how many ways we can make each others’ lives miserable. And I wish I could write or design a way to make things better.


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