transfigured.

Folded into the wings I’ve grown are the ghost of legs I used for years. Legs of belonging, agreement, attention and finding what was outside me have lengthened into wings of belonging to me. Agreeing with me. Attention from me. And finding me. In all the loops and whirls of unchartered flight I learned for once, and for all, perhaps, that evolving into the new means to stop explaining the old.

One cannot be a butterfly while explaining why it consumed so many leaves. It cannot find space above trees while rationalizing why it used to hide under branches. You, in all your winging acrobatics, cannot pause to talk of why you inched and crawled and fell sideways off limbs too brief to hold you. It was enough that you did. And in all the shifting changes that brought you to the tilting dance above spring sodden fields and running children, your wings were being built.

It wasn’t that the crawling was the way you used to be, it is that the crawling was you. It wasn’t that the time of silent cool surrender needs an apology or explanation, it was quiet and sacred, and yours—fiercely protected and honored and held in the new eyes formed from the ones who didn’t yet see this new expanse of green shafted sunlight. Nothing from the butterfly is made from elements outside the cocoon. No new materials or building blocks are stirred in to the slow marching shifts of caterpillar vessels to the butterfly heart that pumps through wet wings, preparing for the first solo flight as a wonder-work of art. Who you are is who you have been. Every quiet turn of an insect head, every slow motion descent into the layered walls of your own un-making, every stretch that brought you out of where you had last been.

The day the cocoon lifts off your head and throat and heart, you will never be the same. You may look backward, wondering what happened, how you got here, why it all seems so different. And then, in the clear call of a loon singing over the just set sun, you will know. You will beat your newly formed wings that seem somehow familiar, cast as they were from the slow, certain legs that carried you. You will move your four wings in a reverent figure eight pattern of infinity, and on the next breeze you will go where you have always pointed. To seed the next changing, to lay the eggs for another transformation.

Why lay eggs just to do this all over again? Why crawl on the ground, swing alone in a pod of your own making, dull and quiet, just to dissolve into a new strange and winged thing? Because your life is a life of a million butterflies. And after the transformation, after all of the searching, shedding, and silence, you know what the tops of trees look like. You have felt rain soaked wind move your wings, smelled a breeze over a field of new clover, and sat on the edge of a pine branch on an early August morning…and it was magnificent.

It was magnificent.

transformation. part three.

Is the end of the cocoon like the falling off of a scab? Wanting to be healed, pulling off a scab before the skin underneath is strong re-injures, re-reddens the skin underneath, flaming it back into the need for another growing temporary tough covering. Does the cocoon fall away when the butterfly becomes bigger than the place that holds her?

When I was teaching young children, back in the days of gathering sticks and leaves into small hands, bandaids keeping small hurts together, I purchased a butterfly kit, a small caterpillar that would morph before our eyes.

The caterpillar ate the leaves we gave it, moving in little circles in the sphere it was kept in. The cocoon was woven in slow time lapse, shifting without us noticing, coming back from being in our own homes, there would be another layer of change we hadn’t noticed the day before. The time came for the butterfly to emerge, we saw its wings inch out toward the light coming in from hand-printed windows, and then, nothing. It stopped partway out from the dim interior of its den, and died.

I didn’t know what stopped the final push into new, higher territory, what ceased the struggle to break out of the mummified, turning chamber that held its dissolution into wings I could see, wings never used.

I wonder if the closed plastic case was part of the reason, if reaching out past the caterpillar life into more of the same stopped whatever alchemy was happening. I wonder if I would have opened that closed jar in a nearby shaded tree, with fruit and wind and spiraling seeds, would the new life have burst out easier, the forward joy reason enough to break out, fully formed?

Or did it happen too soon, the wings underneath the scabbed cocoon not strong enough, injured in its trying to be free of the very house that was growing it strong enough to leave?

Healing is a process, unhurried, methodical and painful in its slowness. There is a trust built in, once you have been through this transformation a time or two, that life folds and unfolds like a clean sheet pulled from a sun-warm line. You will know when the time comes to leave what you have been healing under, because it will fall off when it is no longer needed.

When the sky is its own shade of blue, and the nearby leaves dance in a wind made just to carry you, you will reach up and realize you have shifted without noticing.

transformation. part two.

“It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.”

Cheryl Strayed

I wonder what the first thing a caterpillar does when it winds it’s last sinuous thread, closing its senses off to the world of leaves and rain and birds looking for crawling things. I would imagine it exhales, once, twice. Its body no longer inching toward the next thing, does it know that if it rests it can never be the same?

I believed that the period of time I was feeling burned out, dried up, and spent, was part of the trying of a caterpillar life, but now I see, it was part of the dissolution of that life. We live in a world of trying, a circled, spinning, kaleidoscope of new books, videos and quotes to pull us to the next level, a culture of self-care striving, believing that taking measures to feel better will bring you back to when you felt something.

We want to feel the way we did when we hoped what we learned through myths and legend was true. There was a list somewhere, one naughty, one nice, and if we worked really hard we would earn gifts on a snow melted brown morning instead of coal. No one we knew actually ever got coal, but it was possible—the story powerful in its threat of not getting what we wanted, what we asked for, after twelve months of being watched by a man in a different shaded and felted red suit each year, depending on where you saw him.

This myth of earning beautiful things nearly ruined me. And yet, it was part of the necessary giving up; the exhale, once, twice. Right after I wound a last sinuous thread, a many months long respite from the noise of living. It began with signing out of all social media, stopping the news, no more magazines, or documentaries of unsolved murders and pretend tragedies, acted and scored to create danger, suspense and the locking of doors and windows against what might be out there.

I stopped shopping, for 40 days and 40 nights, the cease fire of credit cards and online wallets biblical in proportion. There was no more seeking the next color and shape of clothing to cover me from rain and wind, I wanted a new way to feel hooded and veiled. I wanted to be quiet, silent, warm.

I put my phone down, and then walked away from it. I silenced the ringer, changed the settings to not show the numbers of comments unanswered, and I remembered what it felt like to be unreachable.

And then, in this unreachable state, I rested—not knowing that I would never be the same.

(to be continued)