Thirteen Shades of Orange!

Baby

One of the G.F. (Gulf Fritillary) cats (caterpillars) is now a chrysalis. It is Friday, May 22, 2015. While counting the rest of the cats, I find a second chrysalis with no idea when it formed. It seems to have appeared out of the magical unseen. There are a total of nine C & C (cats and chrysalides) I’m keeping track of with a mark on the calendar on when to expect a butterfly to emerge in great hope I can see the miracle.

Chrysalis

On Saturday, May 23, 2015, I find another G.F. in the head down ‘J’ position in early morning. My photo shows another cat in the background. By late morning the ‘J’ cat is almost a complete chrysalis. I can still see his caterpillariness as he moves and twists. These cats have done a number on the passion vine. I will need to take cuttings and start more plants as this population boom continues.

J

I read about using a large pickle jar as a temporary incubator so I can see the butterfly emerge without having to move leaves and stand on my head. On second thought, I would prefer a net enclosure like the ones that display the cats and chrysalides and butterflies so beautifully at The Butterfly Estates. Their setup is topnotch and they explain information in a way that encourages everyone who visits to want to try creating a habitat at home. I check a few stores and find exactly what I’m looking for! I would have preferred white, but it’s navy blue, as close to perfect as I can get.

I really like how the butterfly cage has a zippered top and zippered side which allow me to trim a branch with a cat, or use a small potted host plant with a cat, put both in the net enclosure until he forms his chrysalis. I can release the butterfly within a few hours of emerging and have the pleasure to watch him fly. It’s sort of selfish, but since they don’t seem to be on my schedule and I’m not on theirs, we compromise.

A small plastic puddling dish with rocks and sand is now buried near the nectar plants. Eventually I’d like to get something more like a birdbath dish to give the flying wanderers a place to rest their weary wings and puddle together. It would be fun to see their antics.

Sunday, May 24, 2015, One of the cats didn’t make it. I notice a very thick silk attachment and just the molted ‘skin’ of the cat. I did not see him there before now. The evidence is down low in the plant near the soil. Usually they don’t get that close to the soil. The fourth G.F. is in J mode. I account for all five cats and the other three chrysalides, not counting the deceased one. The cats are eating ravenously and from their size, about two inches long, will most likely form their chrysalides tomorrow. As I look over the damage to the poor passion vine, I discover four new cats! Thirteen total, and I’m certain I have not found them all.

Baby 2

Copyright Patricia Westbrook All Rights Reserved

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‘Transitions’

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‘Transitions’ became the first of many poems I continue to write regarding the transfer of the soul from this world. For me, it is not about religion. It is not about science. It is about faith in the Universe. It is about the nature of things. It’s about energy.

Much has been written about this topic. Energy does not disappear, but evolves into another form. I believe this to be true of all living creatures, including humans, animals, and plants. I believe it to be true of all elements that make up our world.

Birth and death and everything in between are natural progressions of life. It is so interesting how happy we are when a baby is born and how sad we are when a loved one dies. This is natural.

Though inevitable as life itself, death in our culture carries a certain habit of fear of the unknown for the dying and an enormous feeling of loss and abandonment for those left behind. It challenges us no matter that our religious beliefs or faith-based spirituality prepares us for all of it. This is a deep disconnect in our beliefs and psyche. Not all cultures are so disconnected.

When my own parents passed, I knew in my heart they had a long and (mostly) happy life. They were elderly. I knew their time was coming and mentally prepared myself. I also know my mother was afraid. I felt her fear in her last hug. She did not want to let me go. This was three weeks before she transitioned.

Grief takes on many forms and is as individual as each of us. There is no right way to grieve. I became extremely ill right after mom died and was bedridden for two days with a fever and cough that would not quit.

Their deaths still hit me like a fist in the stomach. It was my longing for them that brought me grief. They had been in my life forever. I missed them deeply.

Elephants and other creatures show grief and loss. This has been well documented. I watched tearfully as a young doe grieved for her sister I had just shot during hunting season many years ago. I can still hear her bleating when I think about it. I felt like a horrible person for having killed her. I haven’t picked up a weapon since.

What I have learned in life is that grief is a necessary process. It takes the time it takes. We cry, feel lost and alone, cry some more, and eventually move forward. This is key to healing, but being stuck in grief is no way to live our lives. Our loved ones would never want us to remember and honor them in this way, though some of us just cannot move past it. Our lives become crippled by death.

‘Transitions’ was written for a coworker a few years ago who lost someone. I believe that the spirit never dies. I believe energy always transforms into something else. Our universe is made of energy in flux, always moving and changing. We are no different from the world around us. We are part of the endless cosmos.

When the time comes, I hope I will welcome it, but I might fight death. I really don’t know until I’m in the moment. I don’t feel afraid to die, but that does not mean I want to die. I intend to cross the veil in my sleep approximately two to three decades from now. Peacefully. I fully expect a smooth transition.

When I die, I know I will see my loved ones again. I’ve had dreams and visions of our reunion. All family, friends, and pets will be the welcoming committee, with the pets out front. They are the unconditional lovers. It will be a coming home party of the grandest kind.

Death? Eh, it happens, just like birth. I didn’t fret about coming into this world and I’m not going to fret about exiting from it. I’m going to embrace the possibility of change, of transitioning into something new. A rebirth of spirit. It’s the only way I know how to live.

What about you?  I’d really like to read about your thoughts and insights about transitioning. Thanks for reading.

Burnout

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Have you ever been burned out? I have succumbed to complete exhaustion, frustration and disappointment when things were not working out or not headed in a direction that seemed worthwhile. It was like reaching for and chasing the carrot, sometimes for years, but never being able to catch it. After struggling very hard to find it but not being able to, I just wanted to give up.

Getting close to the carrot a few times in my life felt nearly fantastic. At one point I had a plan, or at least a dream, of ‘retiring’ at age 40. It would free me. It didn’t work out that way.

I reset the goal to age 50. That plan got completely torpedoed out of the water. I continued to struggle and strive for the one thing that would bring me peace and contentment, the elusive carrot, just out of hand’s grasp.

A dive into hopelessness shoved me right into burnout’s reality. I couldn’t function and felt like things would never get better, but always knew if I just hung on, I could pull myself back up out of its grip. I did.

After searching, reading and contemplating nature, I now realize there is no carrot. It is an illusion. We only have Now. Contentment only comes when we find a passion about what we are doing in the moment. Once we make a habit of it, we feel much more alive and involved.

I’m now looking happily toward the magic number of age 62 when I hope to ‘retire’ from my current job, but also living in the Now much more than I used to. My life is not always exactly how I want it to be, but no more thoughts of disillusionment exist in my mind. I now feel blessed that I am healthy and able to work and grateful for the opportunities it brings me daily.

It is with pure pleasure that I commute. My focus is on the traffic, surely, but also am thrilled in noticing nature open her gifts in the now, every day twice a day during my workweek.

Oh, my Now still has dreams and wants, no doubt. It is simple. It takes planning and is completely reachable. One step at a time gets me there. There is not really there, it is here. I enjoy the journey just as much as, if not more than, the destination. The carrot is no longer in my thought process. It doesn’t exist anymore.

I do have a wish list of things I want to do in life. I want to visit my family more often and share enjoyable activities. I want to become enchanted by synchronous fireflies in the Smokey Mountains and write about it. I want to hear sandhill cranes as they migrate through the Platte River and write about it.

I want to be mesmerized by the Northern Lights and write about it. I want be in the middle of the monarch butterfly migration and write about it. I want to drink in the beauty of fields of tulips in bloom and write about it.

I want to feel the earth tremor from the large animal migrations in Africa and write about it. I want to SCUBA in far off tropical places and come away with photos and stories of creatures and scenery and write about it. I want to become a better photographer and add my photos to my stories.

As for right now, this very instant, I am grateful for the sunrise, my morning tea, a good night’s sleep, the hilarious song of the mockingbird and the sound of rain falling. I never run out of things to be grateful for. Now is my ticket to freedom to engage with people through conversation and activities that encourage sharing of ideas and insight into looking at my world in new ways.

Since writing Burnout many years ago, I have come to understand fully that what we focus on, we create. I am responsible for creating my own burnout through my thoughts. I now have the power to create my own magic through my thoughts. Life is fantastic right Now, this very instant.

Opening

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    Sometimes I forget to remember we are energy and as energy beings, our lives consist of a series of never-ending waves, with peaks and troughs, just like the ocean. Every living creature experiences these highs and lows along with everything in between. To deny it is to deny life.
    It’s when we get stuck in the bottom of the trough that our body, mind and spirit can begin to shut down. We settle deeper into the valley and find ourselves sinking through it alone, down toward the realm of despair and hopelessness. I’ve had some experience with this in my life. Many of us have. Opening is written for all of us.
    It’s as if we become frozen in our thoughts and cannot fathom any possibility of ever finding a way back up, toward the light and air and life. We must hang on for the duration of the ride. It does get better. It has no choice. We do have a choice of how to react to the feeling when despair is seeping into our thoughts.
    Melancholy, like all else, does not last forever. Everything is changing, always. Nothing stands still in nature. It’s just a temporary lull in our energy body. We hold on because we know in our hearts things will get better. Nothing stays the same. It cannot.
    Perhaps a change of scenery wakes us, or maybe talk therapy or sometimes medication, or a combination of these. We can choose to self-medicate, but it doesn’t help much and can make us feel worse. We owe it to ourselves and anyone we care about to hang on and get help. It’s always just a phone call away. We can also learn to be proactive.
    We finally begin surfing back up the trough slowly toward the peak. When we finally reach it, we ride it with exuberance and joy, wanting the feeling to last forever. It cannot. We must focus on the joy we feel throughout our body; our happiness in that very moment. We must remember this feeling. It keeps us centered.
    It is this beautiful memory that carries us through the next trough. It will come. When we prepare ourselves for it, we can remember and choose to ride through it much more easily and spend less time there.
    Like nature, we sometimes shine brightly and other times not so much. If every sunrise was spectacular every day, completely predictable, the joy in watching it would fade quickly.
    Birds will continue to sing and wind still blows. Rain falls down and leaves grow out. Seasons change for a reason. Nature needs her rest to gather energy for the next growth spurt. We remember this and know it deep in our bones. We begin again with our soul slate wiped clean, ready for a new day. We learn and grow. We open up to life.
    When I see a particularly beautiful sunrise, I feel washed in perfection. Most mornings the sun comes up without much color or depth. That’s what makes a spectacular sunrise all the more special. It is rare and unique, just like each of us.
    If we try to keep a baby from walking or a tree from budding or a star from shining, how successful do you think we will be? Opening reminds us to allow the darkness of the trough and sit with it for a time, because after the darkness, the sun always rises again in the eastern sky.
    It gets easier and easier to navigate all the different waves of our lives, up and down and up again. We begin to notice as we surf, the peaks and valleys become easier each time. We come to see life as magical and beautiful. This is where contentment lives.        

Forks In the Road

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    We are all different people with varied histories traveling along the same roads in life. We meet new aquaintances and friends along the way, share the road for a while and veer off in a new direction.
    When we care about someone and they begin taking a path that does not quite mesh with our value system, or vice versa, separation on some level naturally occurs.
    We have a choice. Most of our differences fall into one of two categories. We can either learn to accept or at least leave room for openness and exchange of opinions and ideas. That’s where we grow.
    Differences are what help us evolve as humans and come to a deeper understanding of each other. We form our own values from this place of understanding. Communication is a back and forth exchange of ideas.
    What can happen too easily is we begin to shut down or turn away from each other. We might even slip down the icy slope and land in a muddy snowbank of intolerance. It’s a very dark place.
    Communication can too easily break down entirely. I certainly am not the best communicator. I am working on improving that aspect of my personality. It can be challenging, but it is in our challenges where we find the deepest learning and growth.
    Occasionally we find ourselves in an awkward position of either surrendering our own power to please another, or having to protect ourselves from further attempted control by severing all ties.
    I’ve been on both sides of that fence and have learned that giving my power away is not a solution to anything. Ever. It creates deep resentment and anger, usually with both parties.
    True resolution takes patience, effort and a willingness to meet somewhere in the middle to find common ground. This is where the deeper challenge comes in. Our truths are never the same.
    Sometimes they’re so disconnected, it’s hard to find a starting point. We all interpret everything in the world differently, based on our life experiences and what we’re born with: the nature and nurture thing.
    Miscommunication, including dodging an issue and avoiding confrontation are just a few of the obstacles we learn to maneuver through in the race toward understanding. Some people are just better runners than others. It’s easy to trip over the hurdles and crash land into the unforgiving gravel of separation.
    I have been told by more than one person that I am difficult to live with. It’s true. I’m OK with that, but I am working on becoming a better me. I wouldn’t expect more than the same effort from anyone.
    Isn’t that the point? Expecting someone else to change isn’t going to solve a thing for me. My focus needs to be on self-improvement, not other-improvement. Just think for a moment what our world would look like if we all shared this one habit for a day.
    Traveling in different directions from others is not a bad thing. Sometimes we need to walk along the path alone, at least for a little while. It allows our innermost beliefs to emerge and light the way toward choosing the fork in the road that fits our own needs.
    The fork we choose is our soul’s journey. It is on this journey where we can find the nature and reflection of our true selves. We bring that best self to our world to share and help create a level of better understanding and ideally, peace. Yes, I am a dreamer. It’s the fork I chose.