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Seeking Connection: A Swallowtail’s Guide

One summer day in 2016, I found two black swallowtail caterpillars in the parsley patch.  I gathered them and brought them inside so that my young children could witness and learn from one of the most amazing transformations in nature.  Though the two caterpillars appeared to be identical, when they went into the chrysalis stage, one chrysalis was green and the other brown.  Two weeks later, a butterfly emerged from the green chrysalis, and my children participated in its spectacular release.  

However, the brown chrysalis remained silent and still for many more weeks.  I learned that chrysalis colors and timing could vary.  But as more time passed, I became impatient and wondered if it was unviable and needed to be tossed outside.  But what if it was viable and neglected in the cooling autumn weather?  Would it survive?  Something in my heart sensed the need to bear witness to the mystery of this chrysalis, so I waited.

On November 8th, Election Day in the United States, I was sitting in my own silent stillness in my house.  When I looked across the room, I noticed the black wings moving clumsily inside the jar atop the bookshelf.  That this butterfly had emerged at all felt like a miracle.  That it had emerged on a day loaded with anticipation, hope, fear, desperation, anxiety, and division felt like an epiphany.  As I reflected, I wrote, "Of all the days to emerge... On such an edgy day, let our hearts and hopes be lifted by soft strong wings which were never second-guessing their timing."

Hours later, my heart broke wide open.  It broke for children, women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, refugees, and the earth.  The bitter dis-ease of fragmentation this election had simply highlighted felt unbearable.  I resisted the butterfly’s message, as it seemed like a cruel cosmic joke.  Instead, I found myself in my own chrysalis, where I desperately relied on prayer, self-care, and body work.   Difficult places are familiar territory for me, and I have learned to honor them with both patience and hopeful anticipation.  I emerged weeks later, ready to continue my life work - Spiritual Direction, Reiki, and Intersectional Justice.  

A few weeks after the conference, I will turn 40.  I'm young relative to some, and not, relative to others.  I've already been on a long journey of healing since childhood.  The early decades of my life have been spent recovering from my own broken connection to Love.  That searching took me overseas, into various spiritual communities, circles of women, spiritual direction training, church leadership, and seminary.   What I can say is that I am in a space of still feeling very connected to the energetic passion of my youth, but I also walk with the maturity to know that my life's work is not just about what lies ahead on my journey.  It’s also about nurturing the present for those who are following me into the beauty and pain of this world.     

On January 20th, Inauguration Day, I received the invitation to participate as a Young Contemplative in this conference.  I know this is the heart of all the work that needs to be done, not just in the US but globally.  Spiritual Direction is for the sake of the world - a world gestating in the chrysalis of the Divine womb.  Even when hope feels unviable, Divine Love draws us toward transformation in Kairos time.