As I was researching material for a short story about an antique dealer who collected rare butterflies, I came across a website1 that revealed a rich resource of stories involving those fascinating creatures.
Some years back, at midnight on March 17—Saint Patrick’s Day—I received a call from my 27-year-old son’s roommate in Bermuda. My boy was missing, and his clothing had been found on a nearby beach.
My first reaction was to get on my knees and cry out to God in prayer. As I did, I saw a picture of my son entering heaven to the joy of my parents and other loved ones who had already passed on. I immediately knew he would not be found alive. Sure enough, five days later, his body washed ashore.
There is an old fable about two neighbors who planted similar orchards. One watered his plants every day, but the other, only every few days. When the dry season came, the trees of the first farmer withered, but the trees of the second kept growing steadily. Since these trees hadn’t been watered so often, their roots had grown downward to find the underground water tables.
The voices seemed muffled as I slowly woke out of the anesthesia following a medical procedure on my back.
I heard the doctor’s gloomy prognosis: “She might not be able to live a normal life and certainly she shouldn’t have any children with a serious back condition like this.”
I thought the move was going to be a simple change of scenery, possibly requiring some minor adjustments at most. After all, I was returning to my home country, already knowing the language, people, and customs. If I had managed to get used to the scorching heat, spicy food, rickshaws, and monsoons of India and Nepal, where I had spent eight years as a volunteer, surely this move in the opposite direction wouldn’t be too difficult.
When I was a child, my father joined a mountain-climbing club where people from all around Rio would meet on Sundays to climb together. Once he had learned the main tracks, he began taking his kids and other teens from the neighborhood up to the many peaks in the area. As I grew up, I realized that life is like a range of mountains, and each one needs to be conquered in a different way.
I had just moved to Winnipeg, Canada, and the Internet connection at my apartment had yet to be installed, so I was on my way to a nearby café to get online and do some work.
Halfway there, I suddenly wondered if I had remembered to take my wallet and stopped to check my backpack. At that instant I felt a blow against my ankle, and I spun around to see who was “attacking” me.