The Accidental Symbolism of Butterflies

Over the weekend I painted monarch butterflies on wine glasses that say, “After December.” The monarch was an unexpected symbol in the book.

First, Brian notices Kacie has a new tattoo on her shoulder. A tiny monarch butterfly.

Then I decide I’m going to tattoo a butterfly for each book up my right arm. First one? A monarch of course.

Next, Alexa Bigwarfe offers to publish the book and her logo is a butterfly. She names the fiction imprint Chrysalis. Of course she does.

Then I see this clip about the legend of the monarch. In a nutshell, it’s said to be the departed souls of our loved ones migrating to Mexico for the Day of the Dead ceremonies.

So. Yeah. Unexpected symbol but there it is. In some book club somewhere I’ll be asked about the choice and I’ll make it sound like I put it there on purpose.

I didn’t. But Kacie did.

I’ve never been Kacie Sutherland. She’s a combination of all the girls I knew and loved in high school and my twenties. She’s at times fierce and bold and at times fragile and weak. She says she’d do anything for Brian but that’s not true. In lying to him and herself about her loyalty, Kacie establishes a reciprocity that is a nice foil to Tony.

Tony’s loyalty to Brian was absolute. Kacie’s is contingent.

And while Brian thinks he’s okay with that, he’s not.

Her tattoo is evidence she’s existing without him. That he doesn’t even know when she got it reminds Brian that he hasn’t really paid attention to her for a long time.

When Jason says he knows Kacie better, Brian is inclined to believe him. The tattoo proves it.


How does a monarch butterfly take on so much symbolism and not collapse under the weight of it?

It migrates.

Fluttering toward its destiny, the monarch accepts its evolution and its journey.

It was the perfect symbol for After December.

One that came rather late in the book’s evolution, if I’m honest.

And a little by accident.

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