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Steve Hansen: Song from the past’s undiscovered meaning

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Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 12:00 am

The other day, I was picking up odds and ends at a local drug store. I waited for service in a rather lengthy checkout line.

While the store management demonstrated no concern for wasting my day, a tune was playing in the background that I had not heard since the late 1970s.

The song was “Dog and Butterfly,” performed by Heart. It had an enchanting melody and was sung by Nancy and Ann Wilson — two vocalists who have some of most melodic voices in the business.

I didn’t think to much about it, but as I headed for my car, tears began to well up. By the time I climbed behind the wheel, emotions were pouring out of me.

I couldn’t understand why. A logical explanation might be that I associated the song with an event that happened many years ago, but there was nothing recalled. While I remembered the piece from a bygone era, it was only vaguely familiar and certainly not tied to any personal event.

Then the words of the refrain began to play over and over in my head. Written by the two Wilson sisters, along with Sue Ennis, they are the following:

“See the dog and butterfly

Up in the air he like to fly

Dog and butterfly below she had to try

She roll back down to the warm soft ground

Laughing to the sky, up to the sky

Dog and butterfly”

It was hardly formal English, but the words touched me. There was something about the message, and I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

That night, I searched the Internet for the thoughts of others on the refrain’s meaning. Many didn’t know. They simply loved the song for its aesthetic value. Others thought it dealt with reaching for impossible goals in life — even if we know they are not realistic.

But to me, it was far more than that, and it was a yet undiscovered meaning, which brought an emotional response.

I pictured a young, care-free, fun-loving dog — a multi-colored Australian Shepherd — frolicking in the springtime grass and flowers. He chased a newly morphed butterfly, while at the same time, enjoying himself as he attempted to imitate the insect’s behavior.

Then, it hit me: It was the realization that animals seem to know more about the meaning of life than humans. For example, why do they exist and why do they continue to struggle with the same survival issues as we do?

There can only be one explanation: They simply love the unfettered experience of living and all the emotions it can bring. The uncomplicated joy of interacting with a butterfly can bring far more pleasure then the mundane activities that humans often pursue.

We get so busy with these daily exercises of life that we forget to live it. Looking back, I’m certain that’s what brought on the tears. I realized that spending 98 percent of my days in routine activities was not the road to happiness.

The emotional reaction took place when I thought about the time wasted pursuing meaningless objectives, while our one-act life play continues to move toward its final destination.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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  • Christina Welch posted at 9:08 am on Wed, Mar 26, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 460

    "Life can be as complicated as you want it to be or as simple. Clarity is in the simple version." Unfortunately, I think most people opt for the complicated part. I know I do far too often. Must try to stop and smell the roses more often...
    Thanks again for your wisdom, Ted.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 2:32 pm on Tue, Mar 25, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Different songs put me in certain places from my past. Taste does the same thing. The flavor of a certain berry off a bunch of grapes sometimes puts me standing in the middle of a certain vineyard . With my eyes closed Carignane and Zinfandel do that . It's how I relate the names with the flavor.

    Life can be as complicated as you want it to be or as simple. Clarity is in the simple version. Why people jog I suppose - breath of fresh air forced into the brain.

    - Agreed - Good one Mr. Hansen.

  • robert maurer posted at 11:46 am on Tue, Mar 25, 2014.

    mason day Posts: 483

    Ann penned the words to Dog and Butterfly after she watched from her bedroom window as her sheepdog chased a butterfly around the yard.As Ann watched her dog, "it struck her as symbolic as to how life can be", explains Nancy."When you're an earthbound creature,we're always jumping and reaching for things we can never really catch, but you try anyway.And that's the point of the song.We're always trying to grab at something higher."
    Personally, I've never really been much of a Heart fan, but they did one song that was written by Bill Steinberg, offered to the Bangles,(who refused) titled "What About Love", which has a similar effect on me that Dog and Butterfly had on Mr.Hansen. Good article Steve.


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