Recently, our friends Marianne, an artist and children’s book writer, and her husband, Brian a musician, composer and professor of music at San Jose State invited Cecile and I for dinner at their home. We were taken by the luscious grape colored flowers in their back yard. “We planted them to attract butterflies,” Marianne said. She proceeded to show us a photo she took of a Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly with striking yellow and black tiger stripes and distinctive orange spots near its tail. The Swallowtail is typically seen in gardens and urban park environments. Next to the Monarch, Swallowtails are the most common variety of butterflies.
In Chinese culture, two butterflies flying in tandem represent love. Butterfies symbolize a long life. In fact, in Mandarin, the word butterfly is hu-tieh, meaning 70 years. In the U.S., releasing butterflies at the end of a wedding ceremony bodes well for the marraige.
The butterfly is the symbol of creativity, freedom and joy. Butterfies also represent growth and change, leaving the comfort, familiarity and safety of their cocoon to discover a new world, in a new form, trusting that their untested wings will allow them to fly with confidence, grace and freedom. A butterfly teaches us that exiting the cocoon suddenly opens a new door. It shows us the beauty and power of personal transformation. It is a natural process, just like breathing, but unlike breathing it can’t be forced or manipulated in any way. It is an inside job.
Often transformation comes through hardships. We go kicking and screaming. Then one day we take a deep breath, and submit to the process of change that is brewing inside us. Other times, transformation comes to us by choice. We begin to see things more clearly and it becomes an invitation to learn, grow and change the trajectory of our lives. Whatever way it comes about, the outcome is the same. Like the butterfly, we all have the opportunity and ability to emerge from our cocoons—transformed.
1-Photo credit: Marianne Bickett
2-Photo credit: Original watercolor of Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly by Christie Michelsen: brightspiritrising.com