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Butterfly House © Cynthia Staples
Cynthia Staples : In the Butterfly House: A Place of Inspiration

Butterfly House © Cynthia Staples

Words & Images

In the Butterfly House

A Place of Unexpected Inspiration

By Cynthia Staples

I have no formal training in illustration but my three-year old friend Em doesn't seem to mind. For her, I draw butterfly houses. Crayons are my medium of choice though sometimes Em hands me colored pencils to use instead.

The typical structure is quite simple, an A-frame house with two windows and a door. A chimney smokes in long ribbons as if a fireplace burns inside. Sometimes curtains sway at the windows, but usually the panes are kept quite clear. A butterfly hovers just above the roof.

"Trees!" Em will request as she peers over my shoulder. That's when I begin work on the landscape.

Trees shoot into the air with wide enveloping canopies. Wildflowers sprout at their base. In fact, flowers soon litter the landscape in all sizes. Em "eats" them while I move on to draw the river.

Fish © Cynthia Staples

The river's edge is a thick line drawn across the bottom of the page. A more subtle wash of color creates water just clear enough to see schools of fish and tadpoles whizzing by. High above, birds, airplanes and clouds compete for space in the sky. A dog scratches his back against the bark of a tree.

"Mama," Em adds, her mouth full of flowers.

I sketch out her mother and then draw in a little Em right beside her. The stick figures are so crude that I try not to shudder. Em only smiles.

Lately, she has requested that she and her mother hold hands, as they often do in real-life. At the first request, I grimaced as I looked at the paper. I'd drawn mother and child too far apart to touch. Em just looked at me and sighed. Then she took the crayon from my hand and drew a thin ribbon between the two figures.

Flower © Cynthia Staples

As Em grows older and her requests more demanding, e.g. apples in the tree and a cat to play with the dog, I have begun encouraging her to draw. I want her to view the blank page as her canvas. So far, she is skeptical of the idea though she has consented to fill in the color on the butterfly wings.

Meanwhile I find that even when my little friend is not visiting, I continue to draw. Sometimes butterfly houses. Sometimes just butterflies. Sometimes simple lines across the page. And in doing so I stay connected to a place too easy to forget, a place of childhood whimsy and flights of flowery imagination. •

Next: The Frog, The Flower and The Rock »

© 2010 Cynthia Staples. All rights reserved.

Photo by Cynthia StaplesCynthia Staples is a highly creative writer and photographer living in the Boston area. Her words and images capture moments and memories and weave together inspiring stories for her readers. More »

Updated 4/17/14