This weekend I took a walk down to Pier A in Hoboken. It’s this long stretch of rectangular land that juts out into the Hudson River. There are trees and a large grassy field, and it offers a fantastic view of downtown Manhattan. In the distance I spotted a large cruise ship approaching. I walked to the end of the pier and watched the boat slowly move in. Soon after, several military and private helicopters launched from midtown Manhattan and flew south toward the boat. As one of the civilian helicopters passed I noticed a large ball on its front — I assumed some kind of scanner. Behind me a man stood and said to his wife repeatedly, “Something’s up. Something’s up.” Indeed, I thought so too, because by this time there were at least five helicopters in the air, and the cruise ship was being escorted by a patrol boat, the coast guard, and a police vessel.
“Something’s up,” the man said yet again and I looked up just as the military copters passed overhead. Flying directly between them, from my line of sight, was a careering butterfly, I think a Monarch. I thought, what an apt metaphor for our times. We look around and see only violence or the potential for violence, but hovering right before our eyes is something innocent, simple, beautiful. I was so focused on my fears that I almost missed it.
The choppers flew past the boat without incident. The cruise ship docked and the vacationers went home. Our fears were unfounded. Life went on, and I wondered how many other butterflies I miss.