In the Butterfly Effect, initial conditions that exist all play a part in happenings that progress around us. To describe its namesake example, the flap of a butterfly’s wings, one scientist proposed, could affect the course of a hurricane…… Scrawled as I warmed my pizza………………….
The Butterfly Keeper.
They say that every storm has its butterfly, something has to kick if off. Does everything that sweeps the air smash down a forest somewhere? There’s someone I can ask, not far from here. There are storms that never came, I’ve seen them in his room. He looks a lot younger than me, quite annoying really. Then again lots of people are like that these days. I don’t know where my days went. He’s called a collector, but you must add keeper and killer to that. I’m not sure I really approve. He does it well though, impossible wings pinned in a glass case. It doesn’t look right to me. They’re not meant to be seen like this surely, nailed up that way.
‘What would happen if I opened the lid, pulled out the pin?’ I asked, pointing to a pair of airy illusions. His mood got darker, there was a storm within his eyes. Then he was fine. I must be careful with him, changeable weather this. His voice is flat, like he’s reciting something he’s known for a very long time.
‘Not that one, a tree in Walden Wood will crash, falling across the pond. It’s January frozen hard, it will stay that way till March. A man will come with a rope to take it before the thaw. Alas it will take him. He swims well enough, but the chill will only leave two day’s breath left in his lungs. He’ll be found on a Friday, his journal not complete.’
I was surprised. ‘Even now? If it ever gets free?’ I see he takes it seriously. ‘Most certainly, all my work would be undone That there next to it is the Great Fire of York, a lantern falls. Not the first fire, not the last, but it will kill a King. He must go on to Bosworth Field.’
Through his window I can see his garden, in the English style, rows of blooms and herbs. ‘The others,’ I said ‘do they get away? You cannot trap them all!’
‘No, that is the way of it. Some trees must fall to allow life to others.’ He intones this like a priest.
Who decides? I wonder to myself. But which of these creatures can bring death upon a harrowing wind? If I got a net myself, could I save a city or a hero? Maybe I’d pardon a tyrant to stay on his bloody path.
‘Not for us to judge’ he says, reading my thoughts, ‘I take what I can. Whatever is left must do its work.’
I leave him making labels, history that will not be. I hear the bees in the garden, watch the cabbage whites on their peaceful flights. Which of them, I wonder, is a whirlwind maker?
Botantical Gardens, Amsterdam.