Geechee, my sister’s beloved companion of many years, possessed a typical golden retriever’s love of water and of people but she had a chow’s attention deficit disorder. Together, her bloodlines produced a lovely but goofy, fun-loving sprite. Geechee loved to visit my home at Sky Water where she could gallop in the woods at full speed and splash around in the cool waters of Brush Creek.
A photo of her taken while playing in that creek showed off her gorgeous red hair and her splendid plume of a tail. I used the picture as my inspiration to paint her portrait, but since she wasn’t looking directly at the camera, I decided to add an object in the left foreground–something that captured her essence while giving her a reason to be looking off camera. A yellow swallowtail butterfly seemed to me to be the perfect thing.
The painting, portraying her playful nature and her natural beauty, came out well. But not long after it was finished, Geechee’s good looks began to fade with age and illness. Her golden hair thinned. Instead of scampering through the woods at break neck speed, her arthritic gate slowed to a tentative walk. At the end of last year’s hot, stressful summer, she licked her master’s hand in farewell as a vet slipped the needle into her vein, mercifully ending her suffering.
The very next morning, as I walked near my house, a dazzling yellow swallowtail appeared before me. It caught my eye because of the unnatural way it moved. Instead of dancing on the air like a butterfly, fluttering first here, then there, it zoomed around me in a tight, purposeful formation, circling me exactly three times, then racing away.
“Geechee, is that you?” I called after it, but it was gone in a yellow streak down the path toward Brush Creek.