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QUINTESSENCE

The Butterfly in Physics

“That butterfly in physics
moves its wings
and something happens
across worlds.”
- “Arlene,” Sheryl Noethe, The Ghost Openings, 2000

There is mystery in the relationship of cause and effect. It is not, as science would convince us, a given. Sometimes there is an effect, with no discernible cause; a cause that boomerangs away without effect.

On the bluff today, McDuff and I encountered a solitary coyote slipping down to the stream for a drink. The thin body, fur color of driftwood, leaned into the shadows as we neared. I felt its eyes on us before we actually saw him. Duff smelled the coyote before that. After a moment observing us coming along the trail, the animal slipped down the bank. With the slightest rustle of grass it was abruptly gone, invisible amongst the tall canes in the marshy creek bottom. This encounter was unusual. The coyote is an animal accustomed to solitude, yet never alone. A call flung to the sky and another voice answers.

Solitude and aloneness are not the same state of being. I think of relationships in which the partners are not alone but their hearts are. A long distance sailor who though often in solitude on the world’s great oceans and seas, yet rarely alone. His days full of adventure and dreams and his mind filled with the voices of those he loves. The coyote challenges me. Dig my hands into the earth, define my own life. I am searching for the elusive. The single beat of a butterfly wing that might, as the poet says, move worlds.

McDuff stares into the reeds ferociously. The coyote is gone even as he hopes it is not. As the dog and I head away from the river, his ears perk for another exciting encounter. I think what the dog does is worth imitating. He does not stamp the present moment on the next. The coyote has come and gone and there may be nothing but bees in the larkspur, but tigers might lurk around the bend and wouldn't that be grand?
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