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The Art of Transformation

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A butterfly in the garden distracted me today, quietly ushering me back to the present. I’ve seen her around a lot this week. Her delicate black wings fluttering from one flower to the next. Dotted with bright sunbursts, her wings carry her gleefully through the humid Houston air.

I know this might sound crazy, but sometimes I think she’s trying to talk to me. Gently whispering the secret to life as she circles endlessly around me. I think if I listen hard enough, I’ll be able to decipher her message. One thing I know for sure: she’s happy.

The average butterfly has an adult life span of less than a month. She’ll start as a caterpillar, spending the first three weeks of her childhood crawling up tree branches and feeding on leaves. Then she will weave her cocoon. After approximately ten days, she will push forth. Emerging transformed, her childhood will be just a distant memory gratefully forgotten. Because who wants to crawl along the ground and through the trees, when you can soar across the skies?

I imagine if she could make me understand, that this is what she would tell me: “Isn’t life amazing? Just last week I was stuck in this semi-dark pouch nearly suffocating, and now here I am.” I would ask her if the prior darkness was worth the present light, and she would breathlessly reply, “Yes. Oh, yes.” 

We are all butterflies in our own way, bearing life’s dark moments so we can better appreciate the light. It is through the dark that we are transformed, emerging stronger, wiser, and more self-aware.

As a final word of advice, I think Madame Butterfly would caution me, “When you can look back on the worst moment of your life, and see it as the best thing that ever happened to you. Then you will understand the secret to life. Then you will understand that without that moment, you wouldn’t be standing in this one.”

I will nod in agreement, knowing from a lifetime of experience how firmly right she is. Tender wisdom.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. —Joseph Campbell


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