Providing hospice care for a wounded butterfly had not been on my supermarket shopping list that day. But then, Sophia Wisdom needed to get my attention, somehow. The back story: I was longing to study for my master’s degree in the creation spirituality program Matthew Fox had created at Holy Names College in Oakland, but didn’t see how I could financially manage moving to California.
That afternoon my mood matched the sultry Midwest Ohio weather – I was dripping outside with copious sweat, and inside with teary sadness.
Not for long. It’s amazing how swiftly the vision of a vibrant orange Monarch butterfly lying on the steaming asphalt of a shopping center parking lot can serve as an energizing distraction. The butterfly was languishing near the left rear wheel of my car. Her right wing was split. She couldn’t fly. I picked her up.
It was as if she had been waiting for me. I held her in the palm of my hand. We connected, human eyes with butterfly vision. “Take me home,” she said wordlessly. Gingerly, I placed her on the shoulder rest back of the driver’s seat, closing the windows, so she wouldn’t blow away when I started the car. I turned on the air conditioning to cool us both down. Five minutes later, we were home.
I rushed to get the groceries inside, locked our ever curious pair of felines in another room, then held out my hand. Butterfly crawled onto my wrist. She kept moving until she was nestled on my shoulder. If she had been a cat, I’d have sworn she purred. We walked through the parking garage, but she stayed put. Once we were inside, I set her down in the middle of the dining room table. “Wait here,” I told her.
She was probably hungry. I rushed to the patio and cut some red impatiens hoping the color would tempt her to imbibe some nectar. Just to be sure she had a choice, I mixed up a tiny batch of sugar water in a saucer, and placed my guest at its edge. She just stared at it.
I don’t remember exactly what I said to her during that next hour. Probably murmurings at the level of ‘aren’t you lovely.’ What do you need right now? The answer was inevitable. She was going to die. So give her the most comfortable space possible as her spirit wafted into the next life.
In Butterfly’s case, the best place probably would be to die among the impatiens and petunias on the patio. Better among flowers in a shady nook than on the floor of a broiling parking lot. Better than being crushed by car wheels. It was time to let go. With sadness I placed her on the supporting branches of the fushia impatiens. “What now?” I asked her. Butterfly, however, was not ready to fold her wings for the last time just yet. Instead, she crawled from the flowers to the brick wall of our condo. Then she climbed with steady determination towards the roof. Suddenly, the sun went in. A cold breeze blew. There was a clap of thunder. It was going to storm. Butterfly knew this as well as I, but she kept climbing. Up towards the roof.
Was she going to hitch one last thrilling flight on a stormy air current? Ride a raindrop back to Mother Earth, down into the dark? Goodbye Butterfly, I whispered. Goodbye little sacred creature of Earth, you who can risk brokenness, trusting whatever happens will lead to rebirth. What does a butterfly rebirth into, I wondered. I didn’t know then. I still do not know. But I can wait for the Mystery to unfold.
It took a few days for me to understand the lesson of her visit. If a fragile butterfly could climb to the top of a roof to ride the winds of a storm to whatever awaited, I, too, with the torn wings of insecurity, and fear of future bagladydom, could take flight and live my Creation Spirituality dream.
Transformation can arrive in small packages. Mine came in colors of orange, black and white.
One upon a time, the Holy One prodded Moses to “Ask the animals, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. They will tell you. Let the Earth teach you.”
Thank you my lovely Monarch butterfly. Thank you, Sophia Wisdom.