flight.

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.

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 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)

holding.

“Letting go is a death to holding on.”

Adyashanti

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.

collect.

There used to be a time, when some of us of a certain time, moved away from home, and called collect. There were operators then, mostly women in my memory, who would come on the line when you dialed 0, asking what you needed. A collect call, please. Connecting the call the operator waited while you listened in; a collect call, do you accept the charges? Once there was a yes, the line was open for the conversation and the operator left the call.

There is a time, for those of us from a certain time, when we stopped calling collect, and called direct. Our own phone, with our own long distance plan, and a way to pay the phone bill. That same time would find us talking about what we were doing, or going to do, instead of asking what we should do.

The shift from child to adult is the difference between paying the bill, or calling and expecting someone else to pay it. A way forward where the road becomes our own, and the way to get where we want paved by our answers instead of our questions. This same shift happens well into adulthood, when we have replaced or added to our parents other calls; to friends, work mates, siblings—what should I do, when should I leave, what will happen to me?

I wonder sometimes if those are all the ways we still call collect, still wait on the line while someone accepts the charges, the person on the other end paying for our unanswered questions, accepting the charge of our blame or disappointment when they give us advice we didn’t like, or don’t want to follow; when we don’t know how to stop asking.

What does it mean to call direct? To me it means to pay our own way with no operator interfering. It means to make the calls we can afford, and leave the phone in it’s cradle when we are growing from our question to our answer. It means picking up the phone when there is nothing expected except connection.

transfiguring.

I was a caterpillar who talked of butterflies. I could see them, winding through air streams and lighting buttercups to dance with their winged hellos. I watched them, forever lilting while I stretched and arched along the ground, ungrounded.

I was a caterpillar who dreamed of butterflies. The dip and draw of yellow dusted flowers, drunk on summer afternoons and the power of fluttering. I kept their company, underneath their dizzy days—did they remember being me? What it felt like to dream of flighted things and the tops of trees, while stopping at walls and rocks, turning back to find another way to inch ahead.

I was a caterpillar who lost the fuzz and fumble of life in dirt, who swung suspended in air filled with the possibility of wings. I am becoming something, quietness dissolving the gravity that held me from becoming what I always was. In the dark and dimness I am seeing for the first time clearly, the legs that held me earth bound lengthening to filaments of flight.

The way toward light and freedom also includes shadows and loss. To move past the ways of looping thoughts and weighted worries means losing the parts who believed that I could feel like I was flying, while staying earthbound. I was never going to reach the open sky by learning to crawl higher, I had to stop wanting to crawl.

Someday I will be a butterfly who forever remembers being a caterpillar. The two of us spinning into a twisted, lifted, lighted miracle.