"In gratitude to the women I'm blessed to sponsor."
My friend Ron Starbuck of Saint Julian Press posted this gorgeous photograph on my Facebook timeline this morning. Transformation, in all of its mystery and magnificence.
Several women I love have had losses recently, and I’ve been witness to their pain and turning. They too, are held in some mysterious form, fragile in their shedding, but strong in their becoming. That’s how I see them anyway, because I know what to look at, and I don’t do it with my eyes. Today, I am present to others in their grief and loss and fear, because I am present to my own. In presence there is power, and that power is love. Years ago, I would have wanted to shield someone from an experience; to protect myself, or them from discomfort and uncertainty. God knows, I ran from myself for many years, until that got unbearable too. Processes that look objectively painful are often full of dynamic potential, so long as we don’t resist the necessary surrender; the surrender to what is. There is an unerring blueprint in all beings that leads to love, because we came from it.
The Monarch butterfly travels 2000 miles from Toronto to a remote location high in the mountains of Mexico, even though it has never flown before. Before her flight as a butterfly, she sheds her skin four times. On the fifth shed, the caterpillar disappears. Transformed into a chrysalis, a completely new being takes over, and for ten days she remains in cocoon until she breaks free with four formed wings. She waits again, for two hours until she flies for the first time.
I don’t know why my friend’s son died so young, and in that way. I don’t know why my friend is in the middle of an awful child custody case, when she is mothering the boys more lovingly than their biological parents. Answering why never got me to transformation. I’ve included an excerpt from Going Naked Being Seen, about the Monarch and my message from love, one fine August day. It’s what I know, and what I live. It’s because of love, that I can bring hell to heaven, and heaven to hell, each day.
Facing my fears opened me to understand a bit about love. It was a beautiful late summer evening and I was outside my friend Greg’s house admiring the butterfly bush. Greg lived in Kansas on ten acres of land that he called the farm. It was the closest thing to nature that I had come to since my arrival in Missouri. The land had apple and peach trees and lovely flower bushes. A butterfly bush was in full bloom, and each flower was covered by a beautiful butterfly. They looked so exquisite and, so vulnerable. I was captivated. For a few seconds, all of the thoughts in my mind evaporated and I knew, with absolute clarity, that God did not want me to suffer. I caught that knowing like I would have captured a butterfly; carefully and gently. I allowed it to linger as long as possible.
It seemed an odd time to be gifted with this knowing because I was not suffering. But I was able to use it, the very next week. My friend Karen’s son hung himself in her garage three days later. I knew Mike somewhat, and he was a beautiful man that was tormented by addiction and depression. The day after he died, Karen was moving, but her grief was palpable, like the life force had been sucked out of her body. It was almost impossible speak in that vacuous space, so I just sat with her and waited. We made ourselves available, and we tried to hold her up while she planned the funeral. Several days later I spoke at Mike’s funeral and told the story of the butterfly bush. I spoke of the apparent struggle of the caterpillar until it emerged from the cocoon and told those gathered that this process would yield something new and beautiful, if the pain and loss were not resisted. I chose to see Karen as a woman who could weather this loss, and be transformed by it. Beauty and vulnerability are mystical qualities to me. Beauty captivates, while vulnerability can move a transformation, if it is allowed.