Sure… let’s call them weird… not yucky or creepy or scary… After all, “weird” is also what people call me when they find out this bit of information about me.
Weird is also how many of you might find the facts of this story, especially if you’re on the younger side or don’t know much about what life used to be like in former communist countries.
For me, a girl not even old enough to go to school, that early summer night sometime in the 80s was not only normal, it was weirdly wonderful. I was so taken with all those small wonders of the countryside, that I hardly knew which I liked more. A velvety sky full of stars – at the same time darker, yet covered with many more shiny stars than I could see from my window at home, a lovely dog begging for my attention – the puppy I always wanted and was never allowed to have at home, nature’s strange noises which made that deep village silence feel intense and almost scary for a child born and raised in town, they all fascinated me, even when I didn’t really understand the reality and difficulty behind that sort of life.
My great-grandmother made it all seem easy and natural, and that night was no exception. The night air was warm and fragrant while I watched her wash a big pile of laundry in a large metal tub in the yard in front of the house. She was rinsing and I was feeling slightly sad, knowing that once everything was hung to dry, I would have to go to bed. There was still time, though… time to gaze at the stars, time to collect discarded toys, time to go give the dog another treat and run back into that bright patch of light in front of the house, pretending I didn’t find the pitch darkness in that corner of the yard unfamiliar and slightly disconcerting.
Doggy would get one more treat and a cuddle, I told myself as I braved the darkness, following his whimpers; then I’d help my great-grandmother hang the washing and call it a night. The dolls could sleep outside for all I cared; I didn’t feel like collecting any toys. But clearly I wasn’t the only one braving the darkness that night.
A brief sinister buzzing and suddenly my long hair appeared to be possessed as it suddenly became the very source of that creepy sound… or perhaps it was fighting it…. touching my neck in a very weird, unnatural way. I instinctively reached to it only to feel this unknown fuzzy entity vibrating and making its way through my locks. I ran faster than ever, instantly getting back to the bright light screaming and begging my great-grandmother to help me. I must have woken up all the neighbours with my shrieks – or at least their dogs, judging by the grumpy howls – while her old hands expertly untangled something from my hair. She urged me to calm down and look at her hand.
The creature covering her palm must have been far more scared than I was, but all I could perceive at the time was menace, a violation of my personal space. Then the biggest night butterfly I had ever seen flapped its massive wings and disappeared into the darkness. In my nightmares that night I would see that ugly fuzzy body and I would hear the noise those wings made while trapped in my hair.
But morning arrived once again, warm and sunny, filled with countryside noises. I’d have to make myself useful after breakfast, I was told; so I collected all the dry towels hanging on lower clothes lines and promptly took them inside, depositing them on my bed to be folded. But just before dumping the last load I was clutching in my tiny arms, I buried my face in the soft terry cloth, breathing in that fresh smell. I loved that even freshly washed things smelled differently at my great-grandmother’s. Sure, the more sophisticated chemical smell at home was nice too, but there was something about the fragrance of that home-made soap my great-grandmother used… I wiggled my nose about to take one more whiff before folding everything… and clean white softness wiggled back at me, touching my skin in a way no towel had ever done before. I dropped it instantly and as I stared at the towel, the dark dotted triangle spread its wings, erupting in the same kind of lugubrious noise it had made the night before, just before getting caught in my hair.
There was no convincing me that it wasn’t the exact same butterfly that somehow managed to hide in the folds of my towel only to torment me some more. I fled the room, refusing to return without my great-grandmother; nevertheless, she had some doubts about the presence of my winged enemy, since there was no proof thereof… But that night, when I heard the tell-tale noise of belligerent butterfly wings, I knew what was coming. Only after the enemy was finally captured and thrown outside into the cruel night – right where it belonged, if anyone asked me – could my great-grandmother finally get some well-deserved sleep.
That’s how I understood that I hated butterflies, moths and anything that might vaguely resemble them. I find the thought of one of them touching my skin or my hair absolutely repugnant. So go ahead, call me weird. But the truly weird thing is that I also think butterflies are beautiful… as long as I don’t have to be anywhere near them. Among my favourite earrings was a pair of butterfly ones… until one butterfly got lost. I also love butterfly photos… Seen through the lens, they’re wonderfully beautiful creatures, so I try not to be weird about it and get close enough to photograph them. But the really large ones… nope, no thank you… not yet, at least.
Much like beauty, weirdness is in the eye of the beholder… and sometimes they happily coexist. Thank you for the reminder and the inspiration, Ann-Christine (Lens Artists Weekly Challenge – Weird and Wonderful). And since I know you love orchids, I’ll throw in some classic wonderful choices of weird, on top of my story illustrating a weird kind of weird and wonderful. We all know how flowers normally grow and bloom, but this Phalaenopsis chose to go another way… (I know they’re also called moth orchids, and the irony isn’t lost on me.) Sometime later, one of my basil plants had a similar idea.
I’m beginning to believe I am the weird common denominator…