To fly like a butterfly, embrace the struggle
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
From Oaxaca, Mexico, a coffee companion sent me a photograph and letter the other day that celebrate the wonder of "gratuitous beauty."
Last week's column featuring Bruce Hollenbach's photo of a Three-tailed Swallowtail butterfly attracted some beautiful responses from many of our coffee companions.
As you will recall, Bruce had cared for the tiger-striped, blue-dotted, orange-accented butterfly from the time it was a caterpillar. He saw in the complex patterns of its wings the wonder of "gratuitous beauty."
From west of Cochrane came this note of praise from another outstanding photographer whose work is often seen in catalogues and calendars:
A COCHRANE ARTIST wrote:
CLEARLY, LINDSIE is not alone in her sentiment. From Victoria, B.C., Fraser Pakes remembered something Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote:
"Happiness is a butterfly which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight on you."
Calgary coffee companion Debbie Faulkner agrees. "Gratuitous beauty?" she wrote. It's "a footprint of grace!"
Several readers myself included wondered how Bruce was able to get such a perfect shot of the Swallowtail. So, I wrote back to him and asked.
FINALLY, from Calgary, writer/editor Monique Achtman responded with some butterfly wisdom that all of us could heed.
She shared with me a story that has appeared in various forms over the years. It's of a young boy who, like Bruce, had a caterpillar that entered the chrysalis stage in its metamorphosis. But unlike Bruce, the boy felt sorry for the butterfly as it struggled to emerge through the tiny hole in its cocoon. He took some scissors and, thinking he was helping the butterfly, cut the cocoon open to set it free.
Unfortunately, the butterfly, with its swollen body and small, shriveled wings, was never able to fly. It needed the experience of struggling in order to prepare itself for flight. The boy had not done it a favour by robbing it of that experience.
Monique reminds us that struggles are an important part of growing up. It's often our struggles that allow us to develop our own ability to "fly."
And along this line, isn't this what artist-writer Trina Paulus is getting at in the following exchange?
"'How does one become a butterfly?' she asked pensively. 'You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.'"
© 2004 Warren Harbeck