Butterfly Lessons

The butterfly is a common symbol of beauty and transformation. We use the metaphor freely in general conversation because it is generally understood and well accepted that caterpillars form chrysalides and emerge as butterflies. It happens all the time, every day, unnoticed and it, like so many gifts in nature is taken for granted.

This changed for me this week as the butterfly kit I had purchased for my daughter some time ago was finally put into action. I paid the $3. and sent the postcard in the mail. The small, live caterpillars came a week or so later in a little plastic jar. The food they ate was already included in the jar so there was nothing to do but watch them crawl around and get bigger.

To be honest, I’d forgotten about the caterpillars after having set them aside the day after they’d come and remembered them in almost complete panic a week later. By that time the caterpillars had already crawled to the top of the container and hung upside down within their already formed chrysalides. I had already missed part of the miracle because I didn’t pay attention. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Following the directions that came with the kit, I transferred the paper circle in the top lid of the container so very carefully to the netted butterfly “habitat” that came with the kit. All 5 chrysalides were attached to it and didn’t seem terribly bothered that I had moved them out of the jar and into the bigger net container. I safety pinned the paper to the side wall net and watched and waited.

Because I didn’t know exactly when the magic had started, it was harder to predict when the butterflies might emerge and so I studied the hanging chrysalides every morning when I woke and passed by them on the way to the coffee pot. Even though I couldn’t see anything from the outside I knew nothing short of magic was occurring on the inside. Every day that passed I was sure we were one day closer to being able to witness the miracle.

Finally, two days ago I stumbled out of bed and through the kitchen to the coffee pot and still the chrysalides seemed to hang there motionless. Not today, I thought to myself. I went about my normal 5 AM routine, putzing around on the computer, filling up on the inspirational thoughts gifted from others for the day.

By the time I went back into the kitchen to rinse out my mug, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. A butterfly had emerged and an empty chrysalis was hanging, still attached the white paper circle like sloughed dry skin.

Excited, I awoke my eleven year old who was still in bed sleeping like it was Christmas morning. She sprang from bed and ran out to the kitchen to see our single butterfly near the bottom of its habitat slowly spreading its wings to dry.

We sat and watched the lone butterfly and stared intently at the other chrysalides, hoping for a sign of impending birth. They simply hung motionless and after a few minutes my daughter and I got up from our bar stools at the breakfast bar and started getting ready for work and school. Thinking nothing else was imminent, we began ritually preparing for our day.

When I walked back by the butterfly habitat I was astonished to see TWO butterflies crawling around, unfurling their wings. It happened again and I’d missed it!  This time I sat back down on the stool and decided my plans for the day would have to wait because the impending butterfly births were much too important to miss.

Hannah offhandedly asked if she could stay home from school to just watch them and I shocked her by saying yes. She thought about it another minute and decided she wasn’t really prepared for that answer and was loathe having make-up work hanging over her. Going to school was more important to her than watching the butterflies and so she finished getting ready and headed out to catch the bus.

I was not so easily deterred by responsibility to routine. I was determined not to miss another butterfly birth. I sat and waited and watched. I opened my heart and felt the energy expand in the silence. By now I had realized two of the remaining chrysalides were so thin they were transparent with a light directly shining on them. I knew I would not have long to wait.

The first butterfly that had emerged an hour or so earlier was crawling up and over one of the pregnant chrysalides.  I imagined she was calling to the other, beckoning it to come out and play. Within a minute or two, her pleas were answered and I spotted spindly black legs and antennae peering through the bottom of the chrysalis. Within a few seconds, the butterfly slid out and another empty shell hung from the pinned paper.

The newborn was wet and its wings were crumpled, but it almost immediately began to crawl up and out toward the top of the habitat. I was so excited I was shaking. It was no less miraculous to me than watching the sunrise out of the ocean horizon for the first time.  I felt connected to this creature in a deeply intimate way and I thanked it with profound gratitude for allowing me to bear witness.

Feeling part of the butterfly world made the next half hour seem imperceptible. Feeling an energetic shift, my attention turned to another chrysalis hanging there and yes, it too had suddenly cracked open just enough so that spindly shapes had protruded out. The butterfly wiggled back and forth a few times and then like Abra Cadabra! It slid out and righted itself to begin its ascension up the side netting of the habitat. It crawled over the dead empty shells without reverence as the new phase had begun without ceremony. The past was past and the present existence was here, now.

As I sat in silent gratitude, I suddenly recognized why it is that we are so fascinated with this metamorphosis. This is the very same calling we can choose to answer or ignore every day. As our outer shell thins and becomes more and more transparent, we can see the different planes as mere veils of existence. We are available to transform from one state to another, slipping in, out, and through, just like that. When we are ready to hear and answer, our transformation is no more arduous and no less miraculous.

The next day my daughter and I set the butterflies free out of their purchased habitat and into the material natural world they are meant for. Surprisingly, they needed coaxing out of what had been their home for less than a day. I sat in the grass with them in our yard and patiently waited for them to be ready to go.

Our goodbyes were tender and sacred and I will cherish this experience always with tremendous gratitude.

I have just started reading a book about Shamanism by Alberto Vollodo. Tucked into the first few pages of the first chapter is this beautiful explanation from an elder Inca Shaman.

                “ There is a difference between acquiring information and having real knowledge. Information is understanding that water is composed of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom is oxygen, H2O. Knowledge is comprehending the nature of water so well that you can make it rain.”

setting the butterflies free


Please do! Just be sure to include this complete blurb with it:


I am a 43 year old mother of 3, living in Florida with my partner and youngest child. Like the mythological phoenix, I have been reborn out of the ashes of my former way of life and have, for the last several years, set out on an exploration of self expression through visual art and creative writing. I am immensely grateful to feel a part of every living thing in existence and the emergence of a growing evolution of consciousness within and throughout. I am interested in all aspects of energy healing and spiritual transformation and have just recently become a student of Reiki. I understand there is always a choice and I try to choose love over fear at every turn. I am grateful for all of the other women in this group and for their ever present support and guidance. Jennifer Bothast



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