by Noemi Szadeczky-Kardoss

Have you ever wondered why are the clouds so pretty?

Well, there was once a Butterfly, who wanted to find the answer to that question. This Butterfly decided to fly to the clouds, and she was very determined. Nobody could talk her out of that resolution, and no argument or reasoning could persuade her to change her mind. When her friends saw they had tried everything, and she only became more stubborn, they changed their ground.

A Daring Dream
“Why don’t you ask the Robin, who lives on the highest tree, why are the clouds so pretty?” the Bee said. “She sees them from close, so she must know.”

The Butterfly pondered that suggestion. She looked up at the large oak tree and saw how the strong wind blew the leaves on its top.

“But how do I get up there?” she asked.

“Oh,” said the Ladybug and laughed. “You want to fly to the clouds but don’t know how to reach the top of a tree?”

The Butterfly felt ashamed and knew the Ladybug was right.

“I must fly up there first,” she thought. “But would you come with me?” she asked her friends.

“Oh, no,” they said.

“I’m very happy down here among the roses,” said the Bee.

“Me too,” said the Ladybug. And then she added, “But please tell me what the Robin said when you get back. I want to know why are the clouds so pretty, too.”

And the Butterfly opened her wings. She knew she would never be happy until she flew to the clouds. But she thought that asking the Robin’s opinion first couldn’t hurt.

“I won’t be long!” she told her friends as she took to the air. She flapped her little wings and began to rise.

A Little Higher
Of course, she had never tried to fly that high before. Why would she? She lived on the field and all she had to do was fly from flower to flower. Her food was the sweet pollen grains, and she drank from drips of dew that glittered on the petals after sunrise.

She had to gather all her strength to rise above the rose bushes and fruit trees. She flapped her wings very fast and soon began to feel tired, but she knew she had to try much harder if she wanted to reach the clouds. So she flapped them faster and faster until she couldn’t feel the tiredness anymore.

She could hear the wind howling among the tall trees. She was reaching the lowest branches of the large oak tree, but the wind kept thrusting her back towards the ground. Her wings were very weak, and the higher she rose, the stronger the wind blew.

The leaves were fluttering violently. The Butterfly saw that each of them was twice the size of her wings and that the twigs were sharp. But she knew she had to fly among them to find the Robin’s nest.

She was tossed by the wind like a lifeless, little flower petal, but she looked up and saw that the nest was close above her head. She almost reached it. But then a sudden gust of the wind pushed her back and she fell hard on a sharp twig.

She didn’t feel anything when it pierced through her wing. The mortal fear numbed her mind, and she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep that was similar to death.

When she woke up, she was lying in the Robin’s nest. The pain was unbearable. She didn’t have the strength to speak.

The Robin looked down at her, frowning.

“What were you thinking, Butterfly? Coming up here where no butterfly has ever come before! As soon as you get better, you should go home.”

When the Butterfly heard this, she remembered why she had come to the Robin. She opened her eyes and looked up at the bright blue sky. The snow-white clouds seemed to be so close as if she could just jump in the air and look inside them. They looked even prettier than from the ground. The Butterfly didn’t feel her pain any longer. She knew she would never think about going back down to the field.

“Dear Robin,” she said. “I came to you because I wanted to ask you something. Please, tell me: Why are the clouds so pretty?”

“Why are the clouds so pretty? What an unusual question!” the Robin said. But then she thought about it some more. “The truth is, I’ve been thinking about that myself. But I don’t know the answer.”

“You don’t?” The Butterfly felt the pain in her wounded wing again. But, in the next moment, her determination grew even stronger. “Then I really must fly to them and find out.”

“What?” said the Robin. “Fly to the clouds? Crazy idea. But why don’t you ask the Seagull, who lives on top of the lighthouse, why are the clouds so pretty? She sees them from much closer than I do, so she must know.”

The Butterfly climbed to the brim of the nest, dragging her hurt wing behind her. Through the leaves and the twigs, she could see the lighthouse in the distance, standing on the shore of the large sea.

“But how do I get up there?” she said out loud, although she didn’t want to.

The Robin laughed. “Oh, so you want to fly to the clouds but don’t know how to get on top of a lighthouse?”

The Butterfly knew this was coming. “No, you’re right,” she said. “I must get up there first. But would you come with me?”

“Oh, no,” said the Robin. “I’m very happy here among these green leaves. But if you talk to the Seagull, please come back and tell me what she said.”

“I will,” said the Butterfly, and she lifted in the air. Her wing hurt terribly, but she tried not to think about it. She felt that she was closer to her dreams than ever before. The lighthouse was very tall, and she thought that if she could reach the top of it, the clouds would be only another little flight away.

A Lot Closer
Still, now that one of her wings was wounded, it was twice as hard to rise higher. She had to beat her other wing frantically just to stay in the air.

She had been struggling for an hour and the lighthouse didn’t seem to get closer. Until then, she hadn’t realized why. But now, as she looked down, she understood the reason. The wind was blowing from the land, and instead of getting ahead, she was swept away towards the open sea. There was water below her; black, deadly waves that looked like hungry throats eager to swallow her.

The Butterfly felt that same fear again. It was the fear she felt a moment before the twig stabbed into her wing, and this fear made her mind become very clear. She looked inside her and saw hopelessness and despair. She realized how fragile her little body was and how little chance she had against the violent wind and the water. What was she thinking fighting against such powerful enemies?

She was trying to rise, and she was only falling lower. The waves were high, threw cold water in the air, and wetted the Butterfly’s thin wings. They became heavy and she couldn’t move them any longer.

She fell into the sea and it soaked her whole body. She saw the depth of the water below her, and as she looked in the eyes of the darkness, she knew she was facing death itself.

But then, an unusual, white shadow appeared on the surface of the sea. It was all around the Butterfly and it embraced her, trying to save her. The Butterfly lifted her head from the water and looked up at the sky. A majestic cloud was hovering above her, and the sea reflected its whiteness.

The Butterfly wasn’t ready to give up yet. With all her strength she had left, she fought to stay on the surface. Soon, her luck brought a little piece of wood in her way and she climbed on it. She stayed there until her wings dried, and then she lifted in the air again.

She kept her eyes on the lighthouse, as she knew that was the only place where she could get a little rest.

It felt like a lifetime to get there, but a few hours later, she was above the land again. She just had to fly a little higher and she was on top of the tall lighthouse.

She felt dizzy from the tiredness when she finally dropped on the large roof. She looked around with a weary smile and knew she was the first butterfly ever to be up there.

When the Seagull got home, she was very surprised to see a tiny butterfly sleeping beside her nest. She picked her up gently and placed her on a soft feather.

“What are you doing here, Butterfly?” she asked when the Butterfly opened her eyes. “Did you get lost?”

“Oh, no,” said the Butterfly. “I’m exactly where I want to be. I came to you because I wanted to ask you something. Please, tell me: Why are the clouds so pretty?”

“Hmm,” said the Seagull and looked up at the sky. “I don’t know. But I wish I knew.”

“You don’t know?” exclaimed the Butterfly. “But nobody lives closer to them than you do. If you don’t know, then I really must fly to them and find out myself.”

“You think you can fly to the clouds?” The Seagull looked at her with unbelieving eyes. “Forget it, that’s impossible. But there is somebody who lives even closer to them than I do. See those cliffs soaring above the sea? The Eagle has her nest on top of them. Ask her why are the clouds so pretty! I’m sure she knows the answer.”

The Butterfly looked at the cliffs and didn’t say anything this time. She knew the flight that was ahead of her would be hard, but she was brave enough to believe she could do it. After all, what is the tallest cliff to the height of the sky? And she was going to fly there to the clouds!

“Good-bye, Seagull,” she said and opened her wings.

“Butterfly!” the Seagull said quickly before she took to the air. “If you talk to the Eagle, please come back and tell me what she said!”

“I’ll be here soon,” the Butterfly said but didn’t look back.

Facing the Deepest of Fears
Her wing still hurt and she was still shaken by the horrible experiences she had been through, but she didn’t want to waste another minute. The tall cliffs were calling her, promising to tell her secrets if she flew closer to them.

She winged her way fearlessly, and as she thought back of all the dangers she had lived through, she had no doubt that nothing could stop her from reaching her goal.

But the closer she got to the cliffs, the taller they seemed to rise. By the time she was only a few feet away, they were towering above her so that she couldn’t see anything else but their monstrous size.

She didn’t realize how her strength dwindled away. She didn’t know yet, but another frightful surprise was waiting for her, worse than anything she ever had to face before.

Next to these giant cliffs, the air moved upward, as if the wind was blowing from the ground towards the sky. This updraft mercilessly whirled away everything that flew close to it, whether it was small or big, lifeless or breathing.

When the Butterfly realized the danger she was about to face, it was already too late. The next moment, she was caught in the current, and she didn’t have control over her wings anymore. She was sucked up in the air so fast that she didn’t have time to understand what was happening to her.

She helplessly watched as she was rushing towards a protruding piece of rock. She crushed into it with a great force, and then fell back a little. But her broken body was caught in the updraft, and she felt that she was rising fast again.

She didn’t dare to open her eyes. She didn’t want to see what was coming. Another rock hit her, and her pain was too much to endure. She stopped breathing.

But the wind didn’t stop and it carried her until it reached the top of the cliffs where the Eagle had made her nest. There, it dropped her as if it had finished its job, and whooshed away towards the mountains.

Everything is Possible
The Butterfly came to somewhat later. She saw the Eagle standing above her.

“Who are you?” the Eagle asked.

“I’m the Butterfly,” she said weakly.

The Eagle fell silent, and the Butterfly saw a horrified look in her eyes.

“What is it?” she asked, but she was never more afraid of anything than she was of the answer.

“Nothing,” the Eagle said after a long time. “I just thought that you were a …”

“What?” The Eagle still had that look in her eyes. “Tell me what is wrong with me!”

And then it struck her.

If butterflies had tears, she would have been crying. She looked up at the darkening sky and the clouds that were painted pink and purple by the setting sun, and she felt her little heart break into pieces.

“I mustn’t give up!” she reminded herself, but at the same time she knew there was no reason to fight any longer. She had no wings. She was nothing but a sorry worm that dreams about flying.

“Eagle,” she said. “Don’t ask me how I came here. What is more important is why I came. I came to you because I wanted to ask you one thing. Tell me, do you know why are the clouds so pretty?”

“The clouds? Pretty?” the Eagle said. “I know everything about the clouds, but I wouldn’t say they are very pretty. They are just big, white spots on the sky.”

The Butterfly couldn’t believe her ears. She couldn’t believe that the bird, who lived closer to the clouds than any other animal, would say something like this.

“Well, I’m sure that there is more about the clouds,” she said. And without thinking any further, she added, “I will fly to them to find out why are they so pretty.”

“All right,” the Eagle said. “If you really want to, you should fly to them.”

Hearing this, the Butterfly was even more surprised.

But the Eagle continued. “Do you think I have to use my wings to rise to the clouds? All you need is the courage to jump down. Then, you will fly higher than you ever thought was possible.”

And the Butterfly knew what she had to do. Her pain and her fear disappeared forever. She crawled to the edge of the cliff.

“I’m flying to the clouds!” she shouted to the wind and jumped down the precipice.

The updraft took her on its back and she soared up into the air. The Eagle watched her from her nest, but soon lost sight of her, so she sat down to eat her dinner.

For the first time in her life, the Butterfly was happy. She remembered her friends she left on the field, and the Robin, and the Seagull. She wondered what they were doing at that moment. She wondered whether they were worried about her.

“I’m sorry I didn’t go back to you as I promised,” she whispered.

The Bee, the Ladybug, the Robin, and the Seagull waited for her for a long time. Every spring, when they saw little flower petals drifting in the air, for a second they thought that one of them was the Butterfly. But the Butterfly never returned.

Only the rain knows what happened to her. If you listen closely when it falls, it will tell you all about the Butterfly who flew to the clouds.

But believe me, not even the rain will know the answer to this question: Why are the clouds so pretty?