There was this huge butterfly sunning near a mountain stream. His wings kept opening and slowly pulsating. Then he would float into the air. Like a leaf falling from the sky, the yellow particle fluttered above the water and then would sudden wheel around and against a stiff breaze would fight back upstream. Over and over again it made the same loop. Occasionally, it would stop on the ground and open and close its wings.
We, and a number of other visitors to the National Park, watched the beautiful dance in the sky. We all waited with our cameras outstretched. In the brief moments when the butterfly stopped, we all tried to get a good photograph. It never happened. Somehow it never fully opened its wings unless it was in the air and it moved too fast.
We had come to climb ladders and stairs to the top of a cliff dwelling so we left the butterfly and its audience. We climbed too fast. The high altitude made us feel like we were drowning and our lungs could not find any oxygen. Eventually, high above the valley floor we arrived at our destination. We could look down on the stream and we could see the huge yellow spark.
After visiting the top we made our way down the ladders and to the valley floor. The yellow butterfly was still in the same spot making the same loop. The ballerina danced. The stream played the music. The performance was repeated. People watched and snapped photos. it was beautiful.
It all happened in the shadow of an ancient civilization. Other people, long ago, sat by this same stream, listen to birds, watched the light play against the walls and lived their whole lives. They farmed, and fed their families. They carved a few faint images on the walls. That is about all they left.
When you visit a fallen, faded culture you ask the relevant question, what happened to them? Where did they go? What did they leave behind? You then realize that maybe all we can ever really do is to try to live beautiful lives. The butterfly might have it right. The dwellings have fallen apart. The fields have returned to the natural grasses, but the air is clear, the sun bright and new. Maybe we should dance and float on the wind. Maybe we should live lives of reckless beauty. Maybe we should live for love deep and powerful. That is the world we should build, because love lasts.