Transforming a Life: The Butterfly Way

Butterflies on Azalea Bush

I Believe in Butterflies

The broken sun catcher lay underneath several yellowing product manuals, packs of plastic take-out utensils, and an assortment of odd shaped do-dads that I could not even identify a use for. Though I’d opened that junk drawer hundreds of times over the years, I hadn’t noticed the sun catcher until I was looking for some interesting item to use for a writing assignment after I retired.

I had purchased the rust-colored sun catcher in 1994 when I first moved here. Lovingly I had hung it in my kitchen window, though catching the sun was not why I purchased it. What I wanted was to continuously see the large butterfly whose permanent residence was the very heart of the fragile glass ornament. He was painted multiple shades of brown with blue, yellow and red markings shaped like eyes lining the edges of his wings. Identical white stripes adorned the upper parts of both wings, and orange outlined the entire creature. He was superimposed onto a bed of green leaves. The butterfly was not pretty, but I loved seeing it. It reminded me both of the person I used to be and the person I had grown into by then.


During my growing period, I had chosen the butterfly as my talisman because of its movement from life to death, then to life again. Like the mythological phoenix rising from its own ashes, the ordinary, almost ugly, caterpillar wraps itself inside its cocoon and seems to live no more. But in time, a miraculous butterfly emerges. In 1980, as a 29year old divorcee, I had been like that caterpillar. Rejection had forced me inside my own cocoon. And there I lay, incubating until I could come forth, beautiful and whole. Seeing the sun illuminate the butterfly touched the very fiber of my being, reminding me that I was on the other side of the worst pain I would endure.

Finding the sun catcher again reaffirmed my belief in the butterfly, its magical transition from a lowly crawling creature, to wondrous beauty in flight. It reminded me that humans have the same butterfly-like resiliency, the ability to undergo the same death-to-life metamorphosis and then take wing. Like the caterpillar in chrysalis, we need that time away from our normal, complicated lives, a time of solitude and reflection. A time of cocoon-like silence so that we can hear the voice of God call forth our butterfly-selves.

At some point, the suction device broke off the butterfly sun catcher, and I had to put it aside. But I could not bear to throw it away. Instead, I put it in my junk drawer and eventually forgot about it. Pulling the sun catcher out today transported me back to the period when I first knew that I knew who I was, and valued my personhood. The memory warmed my heart and made me proud that I have learned to carry the sun in my soul and release its sparkle in tiny flashes- an essay here, a song there, a sincere hello, all evidence that I, like every human, am a butterfly-miracle.

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Comments 2 comments

Judy Igelman 7 years ago

You are so one of God's masterpieces and I am blessed to know you.


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DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

Jackie, I hope you include this in your book. Beautiful truth.

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