Several weeks ago, my husband Ron, came rushing in from outside. He’d been “making his rounds,” checking all our plantings, nurturing them as he nurtures me each day.
“You’ll never believe what just happened,” he told me, hardly able to contain his enthusiasm. “I was weeding around the lantana and saw a chrysalis. It was all wrinkled and dried up. Then I noticed a butterfly lying on the ground. It seemed to be struggling, so I put my hand down and she actually walked right onto it. The butterfly was black with spots of yellow and iridescent blue around the edges of its wings. With it perched on my hand I intended to set it on a palm leaf, but before I could, she spread her wings. At first very slowly, and then more quickly she just flew away. This was her first flight! She knew how to fly even though she’d never flown before!” His face was filled with youthful joy as he told his story; his excitement was contagious. We went immediately to examine the chrysalis we’d been watching.
About a week before Ron’s discovery, we noticed caterpillars gobbling up the parsley we had planted in an herb pot on our patio table. The colorful caterpillars, black, white, yellow and green striped, were those of the Black Swallowtail. Instead of ridding our plants of the beautiful creatures, we were as enchanted as children to watch them eat and grow. A few days later, when we noticed them disappearing, we found the first chrysalis hanging gracefully from a silken thread on the stem of a gerbera daisy in the same pot. Then we found another and many more to follow. Fascinated, we waited and watched patiently, sometimes checking them several times each day, hoping to catch the miraculous event of the butterfly’s emergence from the chrysalis. Finally one morning a butterfly emerged. At first her wings appeared soft and wet, like fine folded silk, but she attached herself upside down to the bottom of a leaf and her wings slowly expanded to full size as we looked on in awe.
Later as I sat thinking about the wonder of metamorphosis I remembered a poem I wrote earlier this year.
I silently climb a sacred spiral path
Awakening and Enlightenment
Mindfulness, Love, Compassion
Bit by bit, ego’s oppressive shell
Into universal spirit and light
I become myself
March 23, 2011
The words came to me, almost exactly as they are written, while I drove home after a writing class inCharleston. I wrote them down sitting in the car, as soon as I got home. The writing prompt was “write about life”
Later in the spring, the poem and words forgotten and put aside, I started flowers in my garden instead of vegetables. As an alternative to tomatoes we can get at the farmer’s market, we planted sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, hollyhocks, and milkweed in an effort to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Now I reflect on the synchronicity of the symbolism represented by metamorphosis as it relates to this stage of my life. In the last several years, changes in my life have inspired a great deal of soul-searching, turning inward to reexamine my life, my path and my own need for healing – my own symbolic chrysalis.
In 2003 my husband and I sold our busy whole wheat bread bakery in Lexington, Kentucky to embark upon the next leg of our journey. We retired to the soothing embrace of the South Carolina shore, settling in Edisto Beach for several years where we found refuge in nature. I had fully intended to start writing but other things got in the way. My aging parents who lived in Florida moved to Charlestonto be closer. I became the care giver – the child becomes the parent. Then, in 2008 both my parents passed away and I experienced a huge shift in my life. I grieved deeply not only for my parents but at the final loss of connection to my childhood history. I felt as though suddenly I no longer had a purpose to my life. I felt alone, deserted, even though I was surrounded by love.
It was then that writing became my deep intention, my practice. I started writing all the things I’d been putting off for years claiming that my life was too busy. My first tender attempts were filled with tearfulness and fear as I reached to touch forgotten places in my heart. When my first article was published in the Post and Courier, my initial elation quickly dissolved into anxiety as I realized how I’d exposed myself.
Since that time I’ve continued to look inward, cultivating the rich treasures of my memories. With both my parents as well as my two older brothers gone, I realize any recording of my family stories is up to me. Nurturing myself by meditating, writing from the depths of my heart, studying writing and teachings of wise, insightful minds, I’ve contemplated the various paths I have taken. I’ve come to appreciate that this stage of introspection is crucial for my growth. Chrysalis, the final essential ingredient before the emergence of a greater consciousness.
In the process of chrysalis the caterpillar’s body parts actually disintegrate to form the butterfly. In these recent years I too have transformed within my chrysalis; I view life differently, looking from a deeper place within myself, connecting with practices and people that resonate in my heart, letting go of old habits and ways of being that never served me well. I’ve come to a more peaceful place in my life, with space for stillness and solitude. Now each morning I look forward to just being; sitting on the back porch celebrating nature’s glory unfolding has become as vital as that first cup of coffee. I’ve come to a place where opening my heart and attempting to bless even life’s most difficult situations has become part of my practice. As I have attempted to cultivate mindfulness, love and compassion in my life I have also tried to shed bit by bit – the oppressive shell of my ego. I know a transformation is underway as I open up inside and give space to what’s really important in my life, just letting go. Perhaps, one day in the not too distant future, I too will step forth from the shelter of my chrysalis, spread my newly formed, brightly colored wings and prepare to soar, trusting that even on my first flight, I will know that I can fly.