Here is another story. A few years ago, I was in a sad place. I went to the ocean to find peace and stillness — and answers for my life. But no clarity came. Rarely do I receive a burning bush. What I did find, however, was an assurance that in the midst of sorrow, some divine presence was always at work, always pushing past the pain and sorrows of life to offer hope. The words of Juliana of Norwich, a mystic from the Middle Ages, seemed to whisper that while I was mired in the smaller details of “what next” and planning my life, a loving energy was viewing the bigger picture and comforting, “All is well and all manner of things shall be well.” Here is the story I wrote about that experience.
I walk to the dunes by tall reeds, taking in the expanse of ocean before me. The beach is bereft in autumn except for a lone fisherman on one of the stone jetties. I inhale, the smell of salt air and fish stinging my lungs.
I breathe again realizing how staccato and shallow this process has been for me lately, how I’ve not been taking life in. A butterfly snags the edge of my vision. Then I see another and another. They flit in and out of the thickets of reeds as if stitching them together.
Removing my shoes, I slide my feet into the cool sand. Late afternoon shadows bruise the sky as I walk along the shoreline laced with foam. I huddle against the chill. The seagulls, too, brace against the wind. They step on tentative legs toward the waves, waiting for a meal.
They are patient. I am not and have never been good at waiting, yet that seems to be what I have been doing all my life. Waiting for someone to share my life’s journey, for my writing career to find a home, for a calling that gives me meaning and financial support.
Beyond the externals, though, what is it I really seek? This is the question that reverberates in my mind in the early hours of morning, that chants like a litany through the still of the night. What truly is of worth in life?
A friend tells me that I am in “bifurcation.” The word literally means “a fork in the road,” a point in one’s life where an old life is ending and a new one is beginning. It is the scientific process of the caterpillar — of chrysalis.
I take a few more steps when a movement ahead distracts me. On the bleached sand sits a dab of brown and yellow. It is a butterfly, stranded on its side and dangerously close to the waves. It is injured, lifting one wing, then dropping it.
I move it to safety, up toward the dunes. The butterfly is hurt and needs to be still. Somehow it knows instinctively what needs to happen for it to heal. I sit and watch it struggling, a sob catching in my throat. I begin to weep for its pain and for all the suffering in the world.
I finally stand and with one foot I draw a circle in the sand around the butterfly. I want it to be protected, whether it ever flies again or not. Before I leave, I whisper a prayer for its healing and for all the brokenness on the earth.
I walk a few steps and then stop to look back. The circle is empty. Somewhere in the wind, my heart is soaring.