“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Have you ever had a butterfly alight upon you? I have. You must, as Hawthorne suggested, sit down quietly. You have to still everything going on in your body, in your mind. Release all tension. Be in tune with the natural world. Open yourself.
It helps if you have a butterfly bush too. That might be cheating, but hey, I’m not above that. I go to great lengths to bring wildlife in plain view. In the summer, the two butterfly bushes in my backyard provide an all-you-can-eat buffet for butterflies, tiger swallowtails in particular. When the temperatures soar, the summer breezes are like warm caresses, and the purple blooms are at their peak, the butterfly show is in full swing.
I love to take writing breaks to watch them when I’m in The Outdoor Writing Office, one of my favorite places to be. The swallowtails are like yellow and black trapeze artists, swooping and looping and hovering. I always want a closer look, but as Hawthorne said, if you get too close—if the butterflies know you’re there—they’ll take off. When that happens, I can’t help feeling a little empty. I berate myself for not being stealthy enough. I curse my clumsy human form. I give my dog the look that says, “You’re not helping things, you big oaf.”
Then I remember. Be quiet. Be still. Be open.
Put the extra large German Shepherd in the house.
Back outside, I’ll take a few cleansing breaths. I’ll sit, closer to the butterfly bushes this time. I’ll wait. The butterflies always come back. They can’t resist. The eating is just too good in The Outdoor Writing Office.
And if I can manage to barely breathe at all, a butterfly will land on me. I’ve had them land on my shoulder, my head, and in the palm of my hand. The trick is to not get too excited when this happens, which of course, is exactly what I want to do. Any sudden movements though, any vocalizations, and POOF… the butterfly will flutter by.
I can see that happiness is much the same. Whenever I have become too consumed with chasing something I think is going to make me happy, it never works out. I end up missing out on the great things that are right in front of me. I don’t take pleasure in the simple things. I lose my true path.
I forget to just be.
When a butterfly lands on me, I take it as a reminder to scrap the superficial stuff and appreciate the things that really matter. My family. My friends. The natural world. That extra large German Shepherd. I remember that getting in a good laugh is more important than getting ahead. I remember that having love is better than having pretty much anything else.
I remember to stop and hug the butterflies.
My wish for you this April, as you enjoy all sweet Spring has to offer, is that you spend some time outside, looking for your own butterflies to hug.
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