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.