Today I was given a gift. When my husband Dyke brought a caterpillar to our home a few weeks ago, I thought it would be a fun science lesson for the kids. It turns out, it was a gift for me. As I write, I know that words cannot fully express how I feel now after my experience with the butterfly, but I will do my best to try and share with you what is happening within me because of it.
Butterflies are symbols of many things. They remind us of angels, with their beautiful delicate wings of an artist’s pallet of color. They are in art, given as gifts, signs of springtime, rebirth and hope. Symbols of life.
Today, I was invited in to the deepest place of nature’s beauty, the process when life is renewed, when the gentle green cocoon with a light golden spiral on it transformed into a sheer white curtain flowing from a window on a breezy day. The now-beautiful monarch butterfly clung to it. Its only reference of its identity. It held tight to its past, the shell that it rested in as it patiently waited its transformation. Was it fear? Was it lack of confidence in its ability? Did it know it even had wings? Was it aware of the process, the plan for its life? So many questions to ponder. He, the bold stripe on his inner wing gave way to his gender.
The Monarch sat hanging in its temporary home, seemingly waiting for something. Maybe it was trying to understand what had happened in the cocoon or maybe it needed time to let these big life changes sync in. Maybe it cannot see itself; maybe it cannot believe what he has turned into. What if caterpillars don’t know what they are destined to become? What if there is not an innate knowing within them that offers the promise of a beauty that takes our breath away, and the capacity to fly with freedom. What if they don’t know that their work as a caterpillar is to eat and survive to make a cocoon, the work to shed their old skin for the chance to become something magnificent?
It begs the question: What if we don’t know what we are capable of either? It reminded me of the many people I talk with in my work and how there are so many of us that have these moments of doubt, insecurity and questioning our ability and our capacity. Times when we walk around with wings on our backs that we have no idea are there.
I was invited to watch this transformation and to celebrate as the monarch discovered it had changed…for the better. The change was worth the risk. I watched for some time to see if he would take flight. I realized that even if I was not there the moment he discovered his wings, it didn’t mean that he would not fly. In his own time, he would gain strength and understanding for his capacity and choose to fly.
During the time I sat in the grass watching, waiting for him to take flight, I felt so peaceful. It was like meditations I have experienced before. I felt so calm, unhurried and patient – all qualities I have been missing in my life as of late. I enjoyed the stillness for as long as I could, and then went back into the house. I heard an intuitive whisper that shared with me the reminder of how this too was a process. It takes time – and it is as simple as that. No need to worry, no need for action. Just trust the natural intention. After all, no matter how hard you try to force things to happen, they will only do so in their own time. Ah yes, I have heard this message before many times. So without worry or the need to be there for his special moment, I left all expectations to God and I went inside with a feeling of hope and trust in the process of the butterfly.
I went outside every so often to check on him. At one point I bent down to take some photos, and his wings spread open. He had moved upward on the tall branch upon which he had been hanging. His brilliant, colorful, orange-and-black wings flapped a few times and before I could snap a great shot, he flew! Up and out above the rolling acres of the land at our home in the countryside. He flew quite high and came swooping back toward me as if he was showing off his excitement. Within me I celebrated for him – and for me. I smiled so wide and deeply that my soul opened up completely. My heart beamed with love and awe as I witnessed this everyday miracle. He swirled about for just a few seconds and landed deep in the wildflowers of our unmowed yard. He perched high on the tallest of plants and there he rested. I was able to see him and take some photos of him once again. I felt like a proud mother when your child rides a bike for the first time. You celebrate their independence and new found freedom. I felt the freedom and the joy of that moment when the Monarch trusted its natural ability to fly, accepted who he was intended to be and embraced his capacity in all its glory.
Tonight while cleaning up the kitchen, the sun peaking through the evening clouds caught my eye. It shone through the pattern of clouds across the sky and reached down towards us. I stopped. I rarely do, but I stopped for a moment, went closer for a better look and there I stood. Taking in the beauty that is all around us. Too busy to see, too busy to experience, and even to notice. And I felt for a moment just a glimmer of the same joy I did with the butterfly. And I heard through the sunbeam over the rolling acres of land: “You have a good life. Do you really know what you have. Don’t let it pass you by.”
I remembered the modest Monarch butterfly pin that appeared above the doorway outside my Grandpa’s hospital room the morning he died. In the hospice wing, they use the butterfly as a gentle and graceful symbol that someone has crossed over into heaven. I kept it as a reminder of my experience that night as my sister and I took turns sitting with Grandma, as Grandpa spent his last night on earth. As I write this, I am hearing the message, “Endings and beginnings are one in the same,” and that life is a cycle, a process wherein sometimes we are required to set aside our need to save one another or change the course of events or control the outcome in a way that is palatable to us, but regardless of these desires we are at times needed to just be observers. And through that part we may actually learn and grow the most.
I wiped the tears as they flowed down the edges of my face, those sneaky ones that just appear at the corners of my eyes when I am connected to the divine power of God. In that moment, I was truly grateful. I don’t know that I have ever before felt that much thankfulness. Looking back on the day, it was unusually peaceful throughout. All four kids were stuck inside with us all day, given the heat and humidity of an August Minnesota day, yet a peacefulness lingers with me. Maybe I, too, have changed. And now I am waiting to embrace my capacity. I wonder what color my wings will be?
What if we all have wings and are waiting for the moment we realize we can use them. Maybe that is when our life truly begins. Perhaps our finest moment is when we realize we can.