Collateral Damage

Dinnertime: I thought our dogs were eating kibble in the garage when the ruckus erupted. Instead, frantic Mamba pawed at the chain-link. Rose, whining, pressed her nose low against the wire.

Both wanted the papery scrap slowly crossing the concrete between their cages.

Walking paper? I bent close.

A tiger swallowtail, its new wings still damp, was headed straight for Rose.

Regardless of how the insect’s chrysalis wound up in our garage, the butterfly that emerged from that shell needed prompt relocation. I offered a finger, and he crawled aboard. I set him on a table outside to study him.

I could have cried.

tiger swallowtail with injured wing

While one wing stretched and flattened as he fanned it, the other stayed folded, adhesed by an injury from sometime during his pupation or birthing. No matter how he fluttered or flapped, the wing refused to open. He flopped sideways, off-balance.

Time. He just needs time. 

Tiger swallowtail with injured wing

I lifted him to an aspen branch and waited for fresh air to open his crumpled sail. He gripped a leaf and flicked his eyebrow antennae. His proboscis, looped like a lasso, awaited his first meal.

tiger swallowtail butterfly

But he still couldn’t travel.

So I moved him to an allium plant, where he settled onto a bloom. His good wing had opened fully by now, but to no avail. He was too damaged to fly, too injured to save himself. After the thrill of his astounding metamorphosis, this exquisite creature was now doomed to be a feathered predator’s meal. In a matter of hours, he’d be dead.

tiger swallowtail butterfly with injured wing

And there wasn’t a thing I could do to heal him.

My eyes brimmed.

Over a butterfly? Seriously, Cheryl. Why?

Well, he reminded me of you. And me. Of everyone alive.
Of everyone ever born since time began.

Catch-your-breath wondrous, each one of us. And broken beyond human repair.

Injured swallowtail wing closeup

And so he fanned his wings there on the chive blossom, as sin’s collateral damage.

Miraculous. Terminal.

But not hopeless.



“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”  —William Blake

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning . . .” —Romans 8:22


“God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.” —Revelation 21: 3-5


“. . .the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  —Isaiah 53:5


“. . .  they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him . . . And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here . . . Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  —Mark 3: 2-5

tiger swallowtail butterfly at rest















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Love the outdoors? I can take you there. Rural & wild PNW posts and photos from a naturalist, faith writer, and author of three books, including the award-winning novel Sugar Birds. Member of Redbud Writers Guild.

6 thoughts on “Collateral Damage

  1. Beautiful…reminder of how fragile we all are. Born with imperfections, seen and some unseen. Flawed but favored by a loving Creator.


  2. Since a child I have been fond of butterflies. This short but amazing new life brought tears to my eyes also


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