From Cocoon forth a Butterfly
As Lady from her Door
Emerged — a Summer Afternoon
(From Cocoon Forth a Butterfly – Emily Dickinson)
I’ve been working on a creative project since the middle of July. My soul needed (needs) something to believe in. I’m weary of following politics. I preached plenty about parables. I’ve gone on a few hikes. I’ve anxiously pondered what my “Why” is. All of these psychological and spiritual tasks have been worthwhile. I still felt depleted, uninspired.
What is life all about when it is happening? Do the sleepless nights and walks in solitude really matter? What is occurring beyond the veils of my anxieties and unfilled expectations that grounds me? Does my meditation on my comfortable chaise create fruitful pathways to calm and clarity. Most of the time I seemingly chase my thoughts and wonder why the f%#k I’m wasting 20 – 25 minutes. Focusing on my breathing and being still with God is tedious.
Being alert isn’t hard for me when I’m leading worship, sharing communion, or chatting in Christ. And, that work requires energy. Being a person of faith and professing it in word, deed, and prayer also begs for belief in God beyond creeds, collects, and spoken confessions of faith. Thus, the contemplative time, though chaotic is worthwhile.
I need(ed) a project. It is time to believe between anxious sighs. I grow weary with proclamations bemoaning the nation’s current political and religious crises. I stumbled into this project somewhat unconsciously. Throughout the summer, I’ve been gardening. My zinnias and roses are blossoming. I’ve verified that you have to work really hard to kill transplanted Milkweed and Rose of Sharon. Waking up early and watering the garden has brought me a certain sense of serenity. A month ago, after a hike in Nescopek State Park and a short stop in the park’s butterfly garden, I made a choice. I visited Folks Butterfly Farm. David Folk gave me a tour. He showed me his butterfly garden. He taught me about monarch butterfly stages of life. I came home with 15 caterpillars, lots of questions, plenty of doubts, and a significant sense of awe. Monarch butterfly caterpillars can really eat! They are very particular though. They only feed on milkweed. It is a creative evolutionary mechanism for them. The milkweed is toxic to most of their predators. Otherwise, butterfly caterpillars are very low on the ecological food chain. They don’t have any natural defenses other than the vast numbers of the eggs that adult female butterflies disperse on milkweed plants near and far.
I had a business trip that I had to take during this pregnant period. So, I offered instructions to friends for the time I would be away from the nursery. I didn’t do a very job of guiding them. Ignorance is no excuse. Sadly, many of the caterpillars died. I’m still not sure why. I think that their food supply wasn’t as fresh as it should have been. And, while I was away four caterpillars pupated. The first one connected herself to the top of the cage. She was hanging out for me along three others when I got home.
This past Saturday morning, I went to check on the survivors and the first chrysalis had turned a deep, deathly black. I panicked. I thought that she was dying. Then, some of my meditative practice took hold. An inner voice told me to be patient. Wait and see. Let go of the matters that are beyond my control. All of those spiritually pithy statements that I share with other people I shared with myself. I went shopping. I checked on my email. I prayed, asked friends on Facebook to pray along with. I lit a candle. Then I came back in about 90 minutes later.
Bill Plotkin in one of his recent Soul Musings wrote: To the caterpillar, the cocoon is a tomb. But it’s actually a tomb-womb. To the caterpillar, it’s only a tomb. This is a place to die. Does the caterpillar know that there is some possibility for life after being a caterpillar? We don’t know, but we imagine not. For us humans, we don’t know what’s possible for us. We’ve heard stories, and yet we really don’t know, individually, for us personally, what the possibility might be. In the cocoon, the caterpillar body liquefies. It becomes caterpillar soup. It’s just soup. But there are these special cells that have been in the caterpillar all along that are in the soup, too. These cells biologists call “imaginal cells.” (Bill Plotkin, Waking Up and Co-Creating a Life-Enhancing Society, July 28, 2017, para. #1)
Imaginal cells. Imaginal cells are born in cauldrons of uncertainty. Creativity is an infant born out of tension, expectations, confusion, and faith. Plotkin adds that people who choose to go through such a metamorphosis have to die much like monarch butterflies do. We can’t become truly who we are unless our psychological, sociological, and spiritual adolescent is consumed. Cocoons of discovering cultivate the wisdom our souls desire. Our addictions, distractions, grief, and hopelessness are the essence,as David Whyte writes, of our true vows. (Plotkin, July, 2017).
I don’t know if I’ve discovered my truest purpose. I still wonder why I am here. Nonetheless, I regained a sense of wonder. I observed an intelligence that is so far beyond my own through the birth of a monarch butterfly. I am confident that a human birth, mortally and spiritually are equally if not more powerful. I have baptized a baby who was about to die. I cried. I understand too that many mothers encounter a sense of joyful death as they give birth to a child. Sadly too many mothers and too many babies die during childbirth. Tragically, we as a species are killing butterflies by the millions. In the midst of problems far beyond my sphere of influence, I personally regained a sense of purposeful joy through this summer project. The next class in my own spiritual cocoon as well as in the silent carnivorous presence of 20 more monarch caterpillars began yesterday.
Blessings along The Way