Years ago when my kids were still at our small community primary school I met a woman named Butterfly. She was a thin woman, tall with long curly brown hair that reached down past her shoulders. She wore flowy skirts and daisy patterned singlet tops, a single mum with four kids whose names were more out there than their mother’s. She was vegan and smiley and talked about angels and was simply lovely to be around. And I liked her, I liked her a lot, but I didn’t really think about the Butterfly behind the angel cards, the Butterfly who had chosen to eat vegan and fed her kids that way, the Butterfly who was a pacifist and valued life above all else. Not until one afternoon when I was driving my kids into school for swimming lessons.
Butterfly’s old station wagon with rainbow and green peace stickers on the back windscreen was stopped on the side of the road. She was out of the car with her four kids, the baby tied to her chest, the next one up holding her hand and the older two standing close by watching workmen on the other side of the road. I slowed down and pulled over thinking she must have broken down. It wasn’t the safest of corners and it was a good half an hour since school had finished. Butterfly and her kids should have been well and truly back in town.
I closed my car door and told my kids not to move. Jack, my oldest, looked at me and whined, ‘We’re going to be late, again!’
‘No we won’t, I’ll only be a minute. Stay in the car.’
I walked over to Butterfly. She didn’t notice me. I reached out and touched her gently on her arm.
‘Are you OK?’ I asked.
She looked at me, blinked and then smiled broader. ‘I’m fine.’
‘You don’t need a lift?’
She looked confused and then said, ‘Oh, no the car’s fine. We’re just waiting for the wild life officer to get here.’
‘The wild life officer?’
‘Uh, huh,’ she nodded going back to staring at the men across the road. ‘They’re about to cut that tall white gum down over there to make the road wider, so all of us drivers don’t have to take such a tight corner.’
‘Are you stopping them from cutting the tree down?’ I asked, wondering if she needed my help to chain her to the tree instead of start her car.
She laughed, as if I should already know. ‘We can’t stop them from chopping down the tree. I just wanted to know if they had a wild life certificate – someone has to inspect the tree to make sure there’s no wild life in there before they cut it down. They tried to tell me they had one but no one could produce it, then they told me they didn’t need one. I told them that I was sure they were aware of the fines. So now we’re waiting for the wildlife inspector.’
‘Ummm,’ I stumbled, incredulous at her calm courage as she faced the ten burly workmen who stood on the other side of the road. ‘Do you need me to stay, is there anything I can do?’
She turned to me again, still smiling serenely, ‘No, no we’re fine,’ she said, going back to her tree watching as if this was normal practice for her and her four kids on their trips home from school.
‘OK,’ I said, feeling inadequate, knowing that I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the tree about to be chopped down, let alone stopped to make sure it wasn’t home to animals. ‘Good luck then,’ I said stupidly.
It was probably another week before I saw Butterfly again, she was walking out the school gate at the same time as me.
‘So how did you go?’ I asked.
She swapped her baby to her other hip, ‘With what?’ She smiled, brushing the baby’s hair back from his eyes.
‘Oh, that. Five sugar gliders.’
‘Five sugar gliders?’
‘Yes, five, they pulled five out of the tree.’
‘That’s incredible. Did you know they lived there?’
‘No, but that’s what the wild life law is for, to make sure there is no one living in the tree and if there is they have to be rehomed. Lucky for those little fellas that there’s such a law, hey?’
I reached over and hugged her, squeezing the baby between us. ‘You mean lucky for them that you came along? I never would have stopped.’
‘Sure you would have, you just didn’t know, that’s all.’ But as I pulled away from our hug I knew this tie died wearing, hippie loving vegan was a braver person than me. Someone who calmly stood behind her beliefs and was prepared to stand there as long as it took, so much longer than most of us.
At the time of putting this blog on my website Butterfly is sick. So sick that at age 44, the woman who has spent her life protecting and saving other lives has only a short time left to live. Her four kids now range in age from 21 down to 10 and going forward they will be doing it alone, without their mum. A Gofundme page has been set up to support Butterfly and her kids. At this end stage of her life, the biggest gift you can give this courageous woman who has given so much, is to support this fund. By supporting the fund you will be giving Butterfly the gift of knowing that her children will be loved and cared for as they move forward on this adventure called life. So please, click on the link https://www.gofundme.com/27xnsdyf, share and donate generously.