~thankful thursday~ shadows and butterflies


~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

I am grateful that it is gratitude month! It’s year number four of me NanoPoblano-ing my way through the month of November on the subject of gratitude, and this year I found myself looking forward to November, which is an odd sensation for me, hater of the cold darkness that I am. This is not just because October was haunted house month, aka Exhaustion and Lack of Free Time month, and November means haunted house season is at its end. It’s also because the best cure for autumn exhaustion and ennui that I have found is a daily bowl of thankful soup. (Haha, just kidding. A plate of gratitude nachos is what we eat at our house.)

I am grateful for the way the band boosters haunted house showed me the generous side of this community. I met and got to know some wonderful people throughout the past few months. Whether it was watching a team of guys build the whole structure to plan on a Thursday, for free, then having the lead builder walk up and insist on paying for his ticket, handing my child over to the moms who do know how to apply makeup each night he participated, or having a football parent hand me a big donation check, this whole experience really made me feel grateful for this community.

Last night was the final haunted house for the season and I am still processing the toughest moment of the whole experience for me. I sold a ticket to an adult sized male child. I counted back his change, and as he turned to get in line, I noticed he had on a large backpack made of the same authentic looking materials as the fatigues he was wearing. I said aloud to my ticket booth teammate that I was concerned about his backpack, and kept my eyes glued to him while he joined the end of the line of 50 or so people, set his backpack on the ground, unzipped it, and pulled out a gun.

I flew out of the booth and over to where he stood, inches from him though he had quickly tucked the rifle back into the pack, and as he had showed it to some teens across the rope from him, I had noticed an orange tip. The situation de-escalated quickly, though the teen seemed unable to understand why I wouldn’t allow him to enter the haunted house with his backpack. “It’s just an airsoft rifle. I won’t take it out in there.”

Though there are many things that unsettled me about this experience, about the common sense gaps of this apparently harmless kid, who concluded that it would be a good choice to brandish a non-lethal but extremely realistic and not completely harmless weapon on public fairgrounds at a school function, I also learned a lot. I know I fancied myself a person who would step up to help in a real gun situation, which as a mom in our current day and age, you know I have imagined a time or two. In that moment, the shape of a gun was being pulled from a bag, and I was in flight towards it, the various disarms, blocks, and strikes I know flashing through my mind, simultaneous with the knowledge that I do NOT know all I would need to safely disarm an active shooter. (How grateful I am that this was not that scenario cannot be really expressed in words.) I now know that I am actually that type of person, not just in imagination. Even though this situation was a false alarm, for the seconds it took me to react, it was all too real.

I’m a little bummed to start off the gratitude challenge with being grateful for this new, albeit heavy, self-knowledge. I almost want to change topics, but one thing I have learned with mindfulness practices is that I should really handle what’s foremost in my mind right now, to stay as human as I can, as whole and integrated as I can.

I also wonder if this is the point of the gratitude challenge. We’re heading into the lengthening darkness, and yet we have a choice how we perceive the passage of the dark, wet, months as well as how we process difficult events and experiences. I think it is all part of choosing a thought process shaped by gratitude, even when peering into the shadows.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

In August Rich and I visited the corner of my parents’ farm where the migrating monarchs were a kaleidoscope of wings wheeling among a rainbow of tall flowers. I took a million photos, journaled descriptive language, and vowed to myself that “as summer floats south on the wings of the magical creatures we witnessed, I will reserve a part of my heart as a sanctuary for the butterflies of summer.”

Dwelling on gratitude as the days grow very dark and cold is, to me, a bit like keeping the habitat open for the butterflies, holding space for what needs to take root to foster their ability to thrive. It doesn’t mean I can ever keep the clouds from passing over that habitat, or stop the clock on the passage of the seasons. What I can do is watch the clouds passing over, trusting they are not here to stay. Contemplating darkness doesn’t mean it will become a permanent condition. And indeed, I seemed to have launched this round of gratitude posts by delving into the shadows. While it was summer, I watched the butterflies alight on each flower, pausing to drink in sweetness, lifting upward on the next air current. While it’s winter, it takes all my courage to descend into the dark, but I trust that I will emerge next spring transformed by whatever develops in the darkness.

The caterpillar entering the chrysalis is of course not an activity/metaphor of fall and winter. Still, there is something about how they go inward and turn into caterpillar soup (caterpillar nachos don’t sound any more appetizing) that resonates in autumn. The chrysalis is a slow cooker of broth seasoned with imaginal cells, those bits of the crawling being that code for the dream of flying it has always known as its destiny. A little trust in the process, a little rearrangement of the molten materials, and out comes a winged creature.

It may take more years of this practice before I can truly feel thankful for darkness, or the meltdown it initiates in me. Simmering in my slow cooker today, I’m grateful for memories of summer, excellent walks with my husband, and butterflies.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

I am grateful for the extra hour today, as long as I don’t think about what it means about the brevity of daylight during upcoming evenings. I used it to catch up on a seriously backlogged grocery list. I left my son to his homework. He is rising to the executive functioning occasion so majestically right now, planning his work and then actually following the plan, setting his own timers and hearing them go off. I wandered off to re-stock baking powder and vanilla and all the autumn baking needs. As I watched the fragrant curry powder, cumin, and coriander fill the paper bags in the bulk spice section, I pondered the soap opera phrase about sand through the hourglass. I remembered back to when Quinn was mostly unsuccessful at joining any preschools, due to his refusal to adhere to anyone’s agenda but his own. As one group moved obediently to snack time while Quinn persisted in pressing playdough through his garlic press, unable to move on just because someone suggested it was cleanup time, I mused how these moments of three-year-old parenting were moving more like playdough through the garlic press than sand through the hourglass. Fast forward to now, and time seems to be moving more like the zesty chipotle, the flaky oregano, rushing out of their jars in great dollops and clumps.

Tonight, I decided I hadn’t used my extra hour yet and took a bath. Winning at daylight savings, and feeling grateful.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

By day four of the gratitude month, gratitude starts to become the predominant lens through which I view my day. It becomes easier to really taste the layers of flavor in that gulp of coffee rather than just pour it down the hatch. It is a joy to be able to take the overflowing compost container outside to the pile before work, because the daylight has shifted to the before-work segment of the day. Seeing memories pop up about “cracking the homework whip” just one year ago makes the progress I’m seeing in my kid seem even more sweet, having retired my whip some time ago. A Roy Orbison serenade and a wood stove fire started out my Monday just right, and it has stayed right all day. Before and after work hugs are bookends to contain my internal pages, regulate my breathing, keep my overthinking in check. The boy has decided on a night off from homework after a long day of testing, and is diving into the next book after Ender’s Game. The man is sipping whiskey and reclining. The kitties are basking in the glow of the wood stove. And I am playing with words, one of my favorite things to do.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

Quinn and I drove to school, gray sweatshirts the unanimous clothing choice of the gray dawn commute. He was probably imagining his into a flash suit, deeply engrossed in Ender’s world. I was imagining the silver-gray Arctic cod I would be measuring all morning. As I pulled into work, the sun was partially obscured behind the sleek blue-gray clouds, like the still-sleeping eye of a great blue whale, buoyed along on a slim layer of pink krill. Before I could park, the whale had plunged below the surface, taking the krill with it, and all was back to gray and smooth and placid.

I am usually more of a rainbow type of gal than an appreciator of gray, but as I look around for ways to be thankful for what is, my appreciation of this subtle hue family grows. The photo I did get (not the sky whale) was from the afternoon; still gray, but I notice there is usually some silver, gold, or even pink hiding along the edges of the grays, whether in muted skyscapes or the flashing sides of tiny fish, and so much texture and nuance. I think it is a worthy cause, this consideration of the gray areas. Today I am grateful for new perspectives.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

I learned that the monarch butterflies on their overwintering grounds are called The Souls.

A soul cannot be assigned to an organ system or even to the body at all, though it seems to be tied to it by the most infinitesimally thin heartstring.

You can’t point at your soul, but you can feel a tug on the string every so often. Like when I walked into the break room at work earlier this week to find a pile of donated Halloween candy on the table, m&ms and milky ways. My Nana, who died when I was 4, always had m&ms and milky ways for my older brother and I to choose from (he usually chose a milky way and I usually chose m&ms) when we would visit. Tug tug. This time I chose a milky way.

She is always with me, within me like rings of a tree, like if you look at us in cross section, each of us might be made of concentric circles holding inside the generations that have come before.

You can’t really point at gratitude either, but you can feel it. I spend November blabbing all about it, trying to point at it with words, but they are approximations at best (still, a worthy pastime that keeps me out of trouble). The more I contemplate it, what it is and what it means, the less it is about each discrete item I’m thankful for, and the more it is an awareness of being swaddled in a blanket of blessings, a coating of live butterflies surrounding my tree, encrusting its bark with all the joy of flight, the hope of survival through another winter, the optimism with which I look at the next generational ring growing outward from me, and from the source that is also my source.

1 comment to ~thankful thursday~ shadows and butterflies

  • camp boss

    It is always fun to read your thankful thoughts for November!! I appreciate your playing with words and i’m glad when you have the time!!

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