“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.” ― Dean Jackson
I planted a Butterfly bush last year and this year the yield of brightly colored winged-ones has been a true joy. I try and seed my environment with symbols of change, to continually reinforce my belief that metamorphous is always possible, and that transition is the nature of life itself.
My father moved in with us in late March, and he is moving into his new apartment in a couple of weeks. He is in the middle of great change, and this morning we had a conversation about trying to go back to the actual environments where we have experienced a sense of peace and tranquility. For me, it was in Cabot, Arkansas, where I lived as a kid.
Up until I was 15 years old, I thought that I would live in Cabot for the rest of my life, my parents would grow old there and that often wished for sense of safety (which is always accompanied with mundaneness) would be my future.
Life had different plans….
In one week, I learned that my parents were divorcing, my brother and I were moving to Little Rock and attending a private school, AND we found my dog dead near a creek that ran between us and our neighbor’s house. It was a pivotable time for me. Mundaneness went out the window, along with my belief in the possibility of life not changing.
I discovered that my suffering was tied to this idea that change was bad after a few months of shock. And I believe my body decided to take me on a ride where change would be front and center for the rest of my life.
What to do? Resist the lesson and continue to suffer? Or embrace the change and learn to navigate with wings instead?
I swear I think I grow a new set of wings every year…metamorphous isn’t a one time deal. Changes allow us to continue strengthening our wings, but eventually, your wings give out and it’s time to grow another pair.
Life has a way of handing out experiences where you can choose to fly or stay grounded.
A few years ago, Shayne and I moved back to Arkansas, thinking we could capture what we left behind us years ago…childhood friendships and that sense of safety and peace. I mean, we were of a certain age, right? No children…maybe it would be good to be around those that have known us for years and years, and we could settle in for this last half of our lives in a place where we had rooted before we learned how to fly.
Not surprisingly, we came back as Butterfly’s surrounded by lots and lots of caterpillars. We were seen as weird…we were not the same people dressed in older bodies. Drinking hot tea instead of Lipton’s sun tea in the middle of the afternoon was commented upon as…peculiar. Our tea moment around those that had never left, never leapt from their place of birth was a pivotable experience for us, and we started laying the groundwork to take flight again.
The previous longing I felt for rootedness where I had rooted before started to feel more like having my feet tied up with invisible fishing line…a tangled mess with no hope of untangling. I started to realize I was going to have to cut the line to be really free.
One thing that I observed during a weekend reunion of sorts was the part that alcohol seemed to play in the lives of those that never left. Have you ever seen a bucket filled with sea crustaceans? The ones that try and climb out of the bucket are always pulled back in by the others too afraid to make a break for it.
That image of crabs grabbing for the legs of those trying to rise up nagged at me while I was there.
I watched them as they greeted each other with, “You haven’t changed at all!” like that was a good thing. The stench of staleness was palpable in their words and actions. Many seemed to be in a rush to don beer goggles to soften and distort the reality that we were not in the bloom of our youth.
Do I believe it is possible to grow and change if rooted to the same spot year after year?
You bet…but you have to cut off of the dead wood to do it. I’m not advocating against staying rooted in the same spot…I’m advocating for growing where you happen to be regardless of how long you have been there.
Who are you right now? What if you couldn’t remember who you were or how you were perceived by others before you had your eyes opened to the gift of change and transition?
My Butterfly bush will be cut down to the ground this fall and next year will grow into an entirely new bush. I think we can do that too…drop what you were and learn how to experience yourself as all new growth instead of trying to bloom on dead wood year after year.
I’m constantly tending to my inner garden, trying to determine where the dead wood is and eliminating it. It’s very difficult to cut off a branch that I’ve become accustomed to having attached…but the new growth that is sure to arrive quickly erases my unease about cutting it off.
Our environment has the answers if we are willing to stop and listen to what it is trying to teach us.
Have a nice flight, butterfly!