MORE LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BUTTERFLY

Today my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, and I set out to journey towards South Florida to release the malachite butterflies we have been raising from caterpillars for several weeks now. Since this species lives in South Florida, we knew we had to do the right thing when we purchased the caterpillars and get them into the South Florida vicinity to release them. Since the lifespan of the butterfly is usually only two to four weeks, we knew we shouldn’t keep them very long after their metamorphosis into a butterfly.

We drove two counties away and released them near an orange grove, as they feed on rotting fruit and flower nectar, and we wanted to ensure they had plenty to eat. We had a bit of a certain indescribable sense of sadness when we were driving to let them go into the wild.

My daughter said she was sorry to see them go. I explained to her that the butterflies are like many beautiful people we encounter during our lives. People come into our lives, and people go from our lives when we change schools, jobs, cities, etc…Life changes. Life changes a lot. The people that we are fond of don’t always stay around forever. Sometimes even death separates us, but we are somehow in some way, or in many ways, touched by their presence when we had them in our lives. I told my daughter that we can learn a lot about life from raising our butterflies.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Like the butterflies that change forms from egg to several different types of caterpillars (instars) before assuming their final form, we, too, go through many changes and stages in our own lives. Sometimes we are not our most beautiful until we’ve gone through different stages within ourselves.
  2. People come and go in our lives, like the butterflies we raise, and we enjoy them while they are here. We try think about their release date, as we can enjoy the moments with them while we have them. All the moments.
  3. Sometimes the caterpillar hatchlings don’t make it to adulthood, despite our best efforts. Life is sometimes hard at times, but beautiful nonetheless.
  4. You have to work hard to find a place to blend in and settle, finding what you need, before you can become a chrysalis. Working hard helps. These caterpillars certainly were VERY busy.
  5. Sometimes we need rest, like a butterfly chrysalis, before we emerge as our best.
  6. Sometimes we want to stay holding on the warm hand that protects us before we find the strength to move on to do what we know we ultimately have to do. Staying on that warm hand for a while is good for a while, but then we have to find our own way as we become adults and move on to college, etc..
  7. Although the butterfly’s life is short, it always leaves behind something beautiful after it dies. The butterfly lives on, like us, in the generations that follow.
  8. We need to be very patient. Good things often take time.

My daughter held the butterflies in her hand in the butterfly cage during the whole ride to our release site. She was so gentle with them that it was such a tender moment whenever I glanced her way. When the engine to the car stopped, she asked if she could release them in the car before we released them into the wild. She thought it would be fun if they flew around the inside of the car for a while. We let them out of the cage in the car, but they didn’t fly around for some reason. I’m thinking that the car air conditioner was a possible reason, as the butterflies really like the temperature to be above eighty degrees before they fly.

My daughter gently lifted the butterflies onto her hand again when it was time to release them outside. She waited until they both flew away, having the peace of mind that they were well, and she somehow added something back into the circle of life. She was relieved that she didn’t damage their wings or legs when she touched them, too. I knew she didn’t, but she was concerned.

On the way home, we found a beach with few people on it and enjoyed some time together in the warm blue waters, laughing together and finding some shells.

“You tucked me in, turned out the lights
Kept me safe and sound at night
Little girls depend on things like that

Brushed my teeth and combed my hair had to drive me everywhere
You were always there when
I looked back…

…And when I couldn’t sleep at night
Scared things wouldn’t turn out right
You would hold my hand and sing to me

Caterpillar in the tree
How you wonder who you’ll be
Can’t go far but you can always dream
Wish you may and wish you might
Don’t you worry hold in tight
I promise you there will come a day
Butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away
Flap your wings now you can’t stay
Take those dreams and make them all come true

Butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away
We’ve been waiting for this day
All along and knowing just what to do
Butterfly, butterfly, butterfly, butterfly fly away…”

-“Butterfly Fly Away” by Billy Ray Cyrus

Life is good. Carpe diem, friends…………….

LIFE IS LIKE A PERGOLA

pergola pieces on grass

As long as I’ve lived in our present home, five years or so, I have wanted a pergola in the worst way. No, since we bought our second house about FIFTEEN years ago, I have wanted a pergola. In our current house, we have a cement patio slab in the back yard that we rarely use, which I always thought would look great with a pergola. I thought it would center the yard and give us a purpose to venture outside of our comfortable pool screen deck area into the “real world.” Another way of stepping out of our comfort zone metaphorically. The patio is on the south side of the house, which of course in central Florida makes it hot most time of the year. My husband has pointed out that it’s nicer in the screen room, as we are free of mosquitoes when we sit there. My husband has also pointed out that with only three of us living in the house, we have PLENTY of places to sit and enjoy the moment without the addition of a pergola. I, however, pointed out that I really wanted the pergola to have a place to string those wonderful industrial “Edison” light bulb outdoor string lights that I’ve seen EVERYWHERE, and it would be great from time to time to enjoy the breeze OUTSIDE the screen, especially at night while watching the sunset over the pond behind our house. The lights were a key component to my plan, something to which I really looked forward.

definitely a “before” picture of the patio in the back yard, SO ready for a pergola for SUCH a long time

Fast forward to Sunday, Mother’s Day. When I awoke, my daughter gave me a “pergola” that she had constructed from rolled paper cylinders and tape along with a beautiful card she made. I laughed and said I FINALLY got the pergola I have always wanted. Then I saw it, that wry little smile on the faces of both my daughter and my husband. They brought me out to the garage, where there was a pergola kit that my husband had purchased earlier in the morning while I was sleeping. Evidently, he wore his N99 half face mask from his garage workshop when he rented a van to drive to the store to purchase the pergola. I was speechless. It was even a GRAY pergola, the color in my head which I had recently decided I wanted. It was such a beautiful sight seeing my husband and my daughter collaborating together to make a beautiful moment. A beautiful moment for ME. It was, in the words of Raymond Carver, “a small good thing”, except this was a LARGE “good thing.”

model pergola created by my daughter, “Teen Traveler”

Shortly thereafter, my husband tirelessly laid out all the parts to the pergola on the backyard grass in the hot Florida sun and began to lovingly and patiently assemble it. We had delighted in planning all the wonderful things that we could grow in pots around the pergola to make a backyard oasis, a spot of rest, relaxation, and tranquility. I became even more excited when I saw the pergola move beyond a set of boards, nuts, and bolts to really start to take shape. I have not decided yet what I want for furniture under the pergola, as I already have two large sectional seating areas and a good sized dining table near the pool already. I want this space to be somehow different as it beguiles us to sit beneath it. We decided that we want a vine-covered pergola to allow us a bit of shade, so my husband decided on a confederate star jasmine plant after a great deal of research. This plant would give us a quickly growing scented flower which grows wild in these parts and is easy to care for. We did a “curbside” pick up of two of these plants from the local nursery to get a jump start on growing them before we really need them. We are enjoying the planning process as a whole family. This gives us a new bond together, something we can call our own and can each take part in. Each of us takes turn watering the plants we have purchased for the pergola, and there is beauty in this sense of togetherness. In a sense, it is somehow like we are all breaking bread together in some way, as this is a shared experience that brings us even closer together.

confederate star jasmine plants for the pergola

As my husband and I were going for our walk last evening, I decided to check where the electrical outlet closest to the pergola site is, as this pergola has electrical outlets built into it which can be connected to a nearby electrical outlet. We have outdoor electrical outlets all around the exterior of the house, EXCEPT adjacent to the concrete patio. I laughed at myself for thinking of almost everything EXCEPT the electricity. In retrospect, I decided I didn’t want the pergola as much as I wanted the hanging lights, truth be known. It seemed, then, that my plan had the first monkey wrench thrown at it.

After just a moment more with my own thoughts, I quickly decided that life is VERY much like that pergola. We come up with a plan, sometimes in intricate detail in our lives, looking forward to a myriad of things that unfold as part of the process along the way. The pergola, like life itself, gives us a sense of purpose that we develop and nurture. We think the sky is the limit and live our lives accordingly. After all, what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve, so it has been said. However, as life happens, sometimes there is some obstacle in our way. Something comes along that we had not planned. Something threatens to thwart our plans. We consider changing our course. We consider putting our plans aside, if even only for a short time.

construction begins slowly, but it does begin

However, the human spirit prevails, and the pergogla construction (and life) continues. My husband and I know we can come up with a new plan in which we can solve this issue. If we eliminate the improbable, as it has been said, what remains is the possible. We CAN make this work with a little thought and effort or we can change our thinking and our expectations. That is, we could always have a pergola without lights (not a possibility for me). We could always run an outdoor extension cord as the most obvious and quickest solution solution. Or, we could hire an electrician to put in another electrical outlet where we need it once the pandemic is over and we can have someone come into our house again. We could have him drill through the cement/block construction of our house in order to bring power from the INSIDE out. There are many ways to solve this problem, and we simply need to think about them and decide upon a solution. That’s life, isn’t it? Define the problem. Work the problem. Find the solution. It can be done, and it will be done. My motto always is, “Don’t tell me no, tell me HOW.” Sometimes, though, we have to wait just a little while for the plan to come to fruition.

Life is good. Work the problem. Find the solution. Life life fully and completely, finding something to look forward to and make it work. That’s life, in all its glory and in all its beauty.

Carpe diem, friends……find your own version of a “pergola.”