Friday, June 6, 2014

The Butterfly Effect -- "Phoenix" (2005)

I am always by your side
I am always by your side

When I went to my hometown -- Joplin, Missouri -- to visit my parents recently, I saw a mural titled "The Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight" on a building at 15th and Main.

That mural was in the works long before an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin just over three years ago, killing about 160 people and destroying the city's largest hospital, its high school, and about 7000 homes:

Lead muralist David Loewenstein of the Community Mural Project, the organization behind the artwork, said that his team decided to feature tornado-related images in the mural because the storm was a recurring image in the drawings created by some 200 Joplin children who the artists worked with.  

The mural features butterflies because a number of children who survived the tornado later reported that they had been protected by guardian angels who took the form of "butterfly people," and because many of the children who collaborated with the mural artists drew pictures of them.

Click here to read a St. Louis Post-Dispatch piece about Joplin's butterfly people.  

Click here to see a CBS Evening News report on the butterfly people.

And here's a secondhand account of one incident involving the butterfly people:  

As the tornado approached, a father and his two young children were outside in their yard.  They did not have enough time to get in to the house for cover.  The father of the kids threw himself on top of his babies and they were on the ground.  The father dug his hands into the ground as the tornado plowed right over them.  The soles of the shoes he was wearing, were ripped right off.  He LOST the soles to his SHOES!  Amazing!  The father and the children stood up, after the tornado moved on, UNHARMED.  The 4-year-old little girl looked at her daddy and said, “Daddy, I saw that big butterfly holding you down."

"The Butterfly Effect" mural was dedicated about four months after the tornado struck.  Click here to read more about the mural and the dedication ceremony.

Click here and you'll be taken to artist Loewenstein's website, which has a good photo of the entire "The Butterfly Effect" mural.  

The mural incorporates not only butterflies, but also depictions of clean-up activity, references to Joplin's history, and a phoenix -- the mythical bird that is reborn from the ashes of its ancestor.

Langston Hughes
The mural contains two excerpts from "In Time of Silver Rain," a poem by Joplin native Langston Hughes.  (Hughes wrote the poem for playright Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun, after she told him she had cancer.)

These lines from the Hughes poem appear in the far left panel of the mural:

In time of silver rain
The butterflies 
Lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry

These lines appear in the far right panel, just above the depiction of the phoenix:

And trees put forth 
New leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky

Here's a closeup:

Here's a photo of another portion of the mural:

Click here and you'll be taken to a more detailed explanation of the mural's content.  

There's now another public project in Joplin that uses the butterfly in symbolic fashion.  Last month, on the third anniversary of the Joplin tornado, the "Landscapes of Resilience" butterfly garden opened in the rebuilt Cunningham Park.   

Click here to read about the butterfly garden, which I missed on this trip but will definitely visit when I return in September.  

The Butterfly Effect is an alternative metal band from Australia.  "Phoenix" was a download-only single released in 2005.  I was looking for a song that referenced the phoenix or butterflies to feature in this post.  I got two for the price of one with this song.

Here's "Phoenix":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: 

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