Butterfly Moments Can Come at Any Age

Butterfly Moments Can Come at Any Age
June 6, 2001
Suburban News Publications
This column has been re-published in both of my books and I wanted to share it here.

     I know how a butterfly must feel when it breaks out of its cocoon and spreads its wings. I must have been eight or nine years old when a Monarch butterfly landed on my tennis shoe and slowly spread its wings, showing its vibrant colors. Fully expecting it to take flight, I held my breath. It stayed on my shoe. I remember looking around so I could find someone to share the moment with, but I was the sole witness of what I considered miraculous. I doubt the word miraculous popped into my young brain. More likely it was something like “special” or “wow” that occurred to me.
     So special was this moment that some forty years later I can still remember I was in the alley between the Minors’ and the Bagleys’ homes. Houses took on the name and personalities of the owners in Old Westerville in the ‘50s. At least, to me, they did. I stood watching the butterfly, wondering what it meant that it stayed on my shoe so long. Did the butterfly like me? Had it chosen me? Remember, I was young. Time passed slowly on that hot summer day, and I didn’t move for fear the butterfly would take flight. Enjoying the company, I remember talking to it. People who know me realize it doesn’t take much for me to begin talking.
     Of course, eventually, it did fly away, and I pedaled my lavender and blue bicycle, that my Dad had put together for me from old bike parts, home as fast as I could. I ran into our old house yelling for my Mom, so I could share my butterfly experience with her. I think it was difficult for her to tell me that the butterfly had just freed itself from a cocoon and only paused to dry its wings, but I knew it had chosen me to share its special moment of freedom.
     Often we spend a lifetime binding ourselves into a self-made cocoon. I am not sure why this is often a human condition. We look, speak, and act as society dictates, often losing our sense of self and thus losing true freedom. Thoughts occur to me at what might seem like odd times—in the car driving, in the shower, and in dreams. Those all are times when I cannot act on the idea without great inconvenience.
     While driving to interview a man running for public office, I had my butterfly moment. Thinking about my work, I understood how a butterfly must feel when it sheds its cocoon and spreads its wings while flying to freedom. It was a profound thought for me because I realized I felt that same freedom. I felt unbound and finally free to love life unabashedly and do what I love to do: meet people and write. “Wow!” entered my mind just as it had when that monarch butterfly landed on my shoe many years ago.
     After that interview was complete, I dared to share my new thought with this man I had just met. It seemed appropriate, and inside I chuckled when his response was “Wow.” He and I talked about our shared goal of wanting to make a difference in this world. Our discussion was injected with new energy when we talked about representing people honestly and well. Integrity. Values. Freedom. These are not new thoughts or ideas. But when you experience them in a way that reaches into your soul, it is all new and fresh. Everything I experience has taken on a new vitality as if I had been partially asleep and now am awakened. I didn’t realize how uninformed and uninvolved I had been prior to the last six months as a reporter.
     I had no regrets and was thankful that, as I turned a half-century old, I could begin with an awareness that had been hidden as I was in my cocoon. Without the life experiences of the last fifty years, I most likely would never have shed that old cocoon, dried my wings, and taken flight. Plus, with experience, fears of change and of learning are gone.
     So I am running into my old house to share my news with you.

Slow down and enjoy life’s read

Day by day

Slow down and enjoy life’s read

Wednesday June 18, 2014

What page are you on?

I can tell how much I’m enjoying a book when I don’t want it to end. Slowing down only delays the inevitable; the last page, the final word. Next I’ll be searching for the sequel or another book by this author.

Some people struggle to read and find it hard to study and learn; it can be a real problem to overcome.

But I’m also talking about those who can read fine but don’t want the task. They stop and look to see how many pages they have to read, bemoaning the fact they aren’t close to being finished — wasting time being frustrated instead of enjoying the read. The end will come soon enough.

We do that same thing when we check our watch every few minutes or wish our days away, when we spend time worrying or wanting a bad day to end. We’d be better off by making the most of the moment.

Maybe it’s a human condition where we push forward, in essence, to simply get all the pages turned and the book finished.

As a teen, a reading test showed I was a fast reader, yet my comprehension lagged. Reading fast has served me well in some respects, but proved detrimental when typing what I was reading. By reading so fast, I often skipped entire lines. The same proved true when playing the piano while reading the music.

In time, I learned to pace myself for accuracy in typing and playing music. As a result, my comprehension improved and I enjoyed more what I was reading or playing.

Our personal life is a unique book, one I believe is written by God. Not one book, or life, is identical. That’s remarkable. We need to listen and watch thoughtfully as each page is turned, knowing the end will eventually happen.

In May, we were camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On our campsite, we had a screened room but we kept the front open during the day.

A yellow butterfly was darting frantically in this room, seeking an exit. I tried to help it out with my hands and hoped it would alight on my cane when upheld, to no avail. It was almost painful to watch as it hit the top and sides, coming so close to the exit and starting its mad path over again.

Finally, it escaped. We sighed with relief. Two days later it happened again, and I was able to use my hands to ease it to freedom. The flutter of its wings was both a thrill and a warning.

I found my heart rate was up after it flew away, and it reminded me how we sometimes spend a lot of time flying around seeking freedom, often refusing help. We see children acting much like the butterfly until they realize accepting help and guidance is good.

Life lessons are a gift.

I’m reminded of the final page analogy when someone dies and I attend the funeral, memorial service or wake. In April and May, I attended four such events, although in the same time frame six people I knew left this life: three friends, a brother-in-law, a neighbor who was also a friend, and the pastor who performed our wedding ceremony many years ago.

In retrospect, we think of these lives and their legacy.

I believe it’s unhealthy to compare ourselves to others. That would be like saying all the best books, poems and the like have been written. Why should we try to write anything?

I refer to other writers who inspire me; I don’t stop writing, thinking it doesn’t measure up, although I often choose to toss writings or completely rework them.

So with our lives. We spend time reworking ourselves and tossing out the garbage, so to speak. That’s a good choice.

When I attend memorial services, I try not to compare my life to theirs but I take inspiration from them. Those who volunteered — I might support these causes. Those who had great humor — I might catch myself when I grumble. And those who were humble — I’m reminded to check my ego at the door.

The list goes on.

When I fail to do what is good and true, I look to change that, often thinking of those who were positive influences on me.

Life moves fast enough; no need to push ahead. Turn your life pages slowly and enjoy the read.