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Many of my articles in prior years were “slice of life” material, viewed by my eyes as an onlooker, a mere observer or in first person due to what I was going through at the time.
I would like to think that I have become wiser and the wisdom that I possess now has been gleaned from the insight of others. My children are grown, educated and a joy to be with. As I get older, I am still the one who will look for the gift in the smallest of moments.
I am fascinated by the backstory, the reasons that paved the way for what we do in life. I’m a collector of many things and often I’ll see something and know in my heart that it was just what I needed at that moment. Call me sentimental or call it comforting, but I can think of numerous times when I literally was walking, and something beckoned for me to find it.
We were a very fortunate family, collectively sharing the journey of our daughter’s success as a swimmer. It was truly an enchanting time; I remember once after a long week at Nationals we were all in a hurry to get on a plane and head back to California. While we were walking and rolling our luggage, I noticed a little wristband on the ground, I grabbed it and it said, “In God’s Hands.” It was quite ironic; because we had been on this amazing ride and our daughter who had accomplished so much, achieving her Olympic Trials cuts and being world-ranked, was going off to college soon. The mom in me hoped that she would be ready for that new part of her life. I wore that wrist band every single day; in fact I never took it off. She graduated college in 2013 and a couple of years later the bracelet started to tear until, one day, it fell off. I put it in a special box knowing that time was over and new things were beginning.
Several years ago, one of my neighbors died of a heart attack. It was quite sudden and after his funeral his wife was looking around the house and yard trying to maneuver through what was now her life. A life without her husband, their children were grown and married with families of their own and she needed to make the next step toward building a life without him. The following morning she looked at their persimmon tree in the backyard. Her husband took great pride in this tree, and had wrapped each persimmon in plastic so it would not be eaten by the squirrels. She asked my next-door neighbor what should she do with these persimmons wrapped in plastic and he said, “Just leave them alone. When they are ready to fall, they will.”
I found that prophetic in many ways, a metaphor perhaps for allowing the process to continue on its rightful path. I remember when the last persimmon fell it was like the denouement of the story, a reminder to begin anew.
This spring I purchased two milkweed plants with the determination to nurture them and welcome any caterpillars, as I do each year, and hopefully see them become Monarch butterflies. I replanted the milkweeds in bigger planters, going on the theory that the bigger the planter box, they’ll grow more robust in size.
By June the plants were thriving, and doing well as the green leaves and branches supported each other; thus, allowing the light orange blossoms to grow and grow. One afternoon, I looked outside and saw a small caterpillar on the cement just wiggling along. I went outside and very gently helped him get on a leaf and I put him in the milkweed. I kept an eye on it and by day three, he had nearly doubled in size. I looked into the planters and saw five more caterpillars. I wanted to protect them. I had envisioned putting netting around the plants so that the caterpillars could thrive, but also didn’t feel I knew what I was doing, so I let nature take its course.
The next weekend was Father’s Day and we all were going to go to the Central Coast. When we came back, I checked my milkweeds, and all the caterpillars were gone. Well, I thought there is always next year. The following Sunday our daughter came over with our grandchild. She’s a year old and normally she is on the go, crawling here and there and we focus only on watching her as she finds each new thing that our house has to offer.
This particular Sunday she seemed a little tired. It was the last breezy, cloudy day before we headed into the hot weather of July. I carried her to the backyard, and we sat in the shaded area under the umbrella at the table. We had a perfect view of the hummingbirds that were visiting my feeder. She watched as each one swooped in to drink the sweet juice, creating a territorial hierarchy that they seem to do whenever nectar is available. She laid her head on my shoulder, I rocked her back and forth and pretty soon she was sound asleep. I sat on the chair absorbing the moment. What more did I need?
I started to look around at everything in my yard and something caught my eye. Wait? Was that a butterfly sitting on a nearby branch? I hoped it was alive. I couldn’t get up to check so I focused on it to see if there was any sign of life. Ah, the antennas moved, oh good. I watched it for the better part of the hour as my granddaughter continued to sleep in my arms. It slowly made its way to an outer branch, the wings more prevalent as they opened and closed, almost as if it were saying hello. I wondered, could this be one of my caterpillars? But I hadn’t seen a chrysalis, so I wasn’t sure. By now my granddaughter was waking up and I carried her inside and helped my daughter pack up so they could get home.
After they left, I went back outside, and the butterfly was still on the outer branch. As the wings flapped slowly, the colors became more magnificent in the late afternoon sun: Orange and black with white spots perfectly in sync with each movement. I studied the surrounding branches and saw something translucent, almost see-through. It was the chrysalis. It was one of my caterpillars. It had emerged as a butterfly onto the branches below. I was overjoyed, and thankful and reminded of the sage wisdom of my next-door neighbor whose words rang true yet again: “When things are ready to fall, they will,” and in this beautiful instance the butterfly expanded his wings and set off on his journey.
Jennifer Danny is a writer and author of the book: “Angels in the Clouds©.” She can be reached at: [email protected]