I accidentally felt happy. For days and weeks after the visceral, physical breaking out of the cocoon I was bound up in, a feeling kept flitting in my side view. Brief and effervescent, blue and bright and entertaining. What was this? It was familiar and fleeting and then swooped back up and out and I laughed, a lot. Smiling in my kitchen alone, at the sun in the window I realized this was happy.

It was so long since I felt something similar to this—so many shedding skins ago, that I kept quiet. I didn’t want to shoot back into a caterpillar skin or reincarnate into trying and testing again if I spoke it out loud.

A few weeks ago I went to D.C. on a work trip, flying into air I used to be afraid of, settled in with a movie and few hours of silent shuttling sky, sitting in tandem quiet with a kind-souled fellow traveler. I wish I could explain what happened then, maybe someday there will be words for what it is when two people who have both found themselves as butterflies find the same draft of air. For now it is enough to know that while the cocoon may feel lonely, newly winged flight is not.

I spent the next five days waiting on couches in hotel libraries, trying on hats and wandering new streets, running to keep warm and crying from the cold. I came home and talked on the phone, met people in stores and smiled, sipped soup and felt full, bought bread and coffee creamer and wore warm socks on frigid nights.

I lived. And until then I thought what I was doing before was living, but it wasn’t. It was leaning toward what I thought would feel more, look better, seem easier somehow. I was waiting to live until living felt nicer. If I could go back and try it again, faster, better, would I? No. I had moments of great through every minute of my life as a caterpillar and cocoon. I had family and love and friends and a life that held me while I found my way to this. I hold it in my hands like a cup of warm tea, look across the steam and see sugared sunlight fall through leaves, see the shadow cast of light in an afternoon room, and I know that this life is magnificent.

It is magnificent.


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.


“Letting go is a death to holding on.”


When we have stayed still longer than is comfortable, when the chafe of life wears a ringing in our ears from listening too hard, too focused. When we have sat on our hands instead of deciding, as if the decision is out there, something external pulling it into existence, always a few steps ahead, the carrot chase of it a constant question. When we have asked and asked, when will it be time, the answer is, ‘when you let go’.

Letting go let’s go of the one who holds on. The one who tries one more way, studies one more skill, thinks about how to work this better, figure it out, succeed. It’s letting go of the one who talks it out, who brings it to trusted friends and mentors, who thinks that hanging on means being there when the secret is revealed, the thing that solves it all.

Here is the secret; move when life moves you, stop listening to anything except the song singing you forward. Stand up. Know it is not out there, it is right here, and the time is when you say it is.

We have never wanted to go to bed before the show ends, we want to see how it turns out. We have believed the show is being written for us, a cliffhanger of what is coming, and we don’t want to miss it, as if the prize only given to those in attendance.

To chase the carrot on the end of the illusory stick, to wait for an ending written by another storyteller, is to be forever focused on something that does not belong to you. It was never yours, it was just trying to get you to live poised and hungry.

Letting go gives you hands free to till and plant and harvest, to be green from pulling weeds, not white from holding still.

over and next

There are places in a body that tell hidden tales of sadness, the fallen fragments of bending to fit another, the pain lit conflicted parts with warring stories. There are places I hold the weight of light things that held longer and together are made heavy; tight with the worried bracing of another day.

This morning, waking to the familiar tension in my neck, the strands between heart and head fighting to win, to hold claim to my attention. This morning, for the first time I saw this as the brittle battle it was, the pushing of defying, justifying, closing, the pulling of silence, rest, love.

What if somewhere in the middle there was a quiet stream of undoing, a soft silent place where the frame of me did not need to communicate its old stories, where time was not a stop watch, and the light before the coming of the sun was a stretch not a starting line.

To release the tight binds of what part wins, it might be that today needs to be a new day, not a familiar day. That the light that begins again, begins me again. That the earth turns and so do I, into the next thing, the new thing, the kindness reaching up through my heart to my mind, telling an original tale. The tension that lives there needs history to feed itself, dramas to push it forward and memories to play on repeat.

When asked what wisdom he could share from his 99 years on earth, Norman Lear replied there are two words we don’t think enough about ‘over and next’. When something is over, let it be over. Could it be that the memories I curate create the pain humming strings from my heart to my head, the words of earlier days singing their strain?

Maybe tomorrow I will choose. I will win from the place I have felt the most loss. The mind holds memories that prove its rightness, to justify its loudness. The heart holds memories both lovely and painful and both cause it to grow sweeter, opening wider into destructive newness.

It seems clearer now there is a choice to be made between volume and evolving, between loud and light. Whether the pain you wake up with is in your neck, stomach, hips or head, what is above and below that ache that is fighting for time, for a voice, for a win? Is there a part that argues to stay the same and a part that wants to open into relief and higher air? What is next can be accessed by allowing what is over to be over. If the tension ran slack, what part would weep? Maybe tomorrow morning, I’ll stretch there.


There is a place I have not yet gone, the last home I moved from, a few miles from here, Utah homogenized and church silent, I lived there. The pictures from that time are of a growing baby, my baby, adored and life filling, in a small miners cottage on a road between two unloved places, who I was, and who I would become.

I have a stone, unplaced, waiting to honor that desperate spot I lived, in a mind addled by the arrival of the baby that almost was the death of the body that tried so hard to birth her. And now, in the birthing of this next new real self, I know what this last stage means.

I am familiar with the moments before blood leaves a body, seeping out faster than panicked raised voice staff know how to stem. I know the tide that pulls deliciously under, the green lean into rest and the quiet sacrifice of no more repenting. I know this place, and I know I need to return, my head dropped below my body to stop the release of life everyone around me so valiantly saved.

I was saved for this, for three more glorious turns of motherhood, for partnership that is solid and kind and so everlasting loyal. For family that jump me to my feet in the pure loving of them. For friendships that are tenuous ties to the core of loveliness in this world. For a job that has threatened to pull me under the mind tow oblivion of defeat but has brought me alongside love that is a woven basket of laughter soaked belonging.

Was it ever about wholeness or was it always about the whole of us? I could not find it because I was looking at me, and that wasn’t ever where it lived. It lived in the spaces where our hands touched, our laughter blended, our eyes held across tables and spanned miles of empty air. It was in those who stayed and those who left, the empty spaces of where they used to be the pages I could now write; the stanzas of separation, an unbroken love song, a song of goodbye, of thank you, of I understand.

Could it be these are the places I needed to live, and the people I needed to love and lose to see the self I was?

She was always there, abiding each move, each line of wondering what the next place would hold for her. She was afraid what she believed was true but did not know how to weld all the parts together to be good enough to inhabit the space she apologized for living in. She was small and she was quiet and she was unceasingly bound together by the hope that somewhere there was a mirror that reflected back to her who she was when all her staggered attempts hummed together in the song of her. And she hoped there was a book, not so empty anymore that she would continue to write. Each word a communion, a kneeling head bowed letter from who she had been in every home, to who she was becoming, and how her journey brought her back to what she had always been; whole.