Finding wings in the darkness

My personal inspirational essay was published online on SheLoves Magazine this morning. Many of you have already read this. If so, I am thankful and no need to linger in this space.

However, for those who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or who may not have found it, I’d like to share it here with those who read my blog — with the hope you find words that uplift or inspire. With deep gratitude.


By Marielena Zuniga | Blog

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 of inhalation has been for me lately, how I’ve not been taking life in. Here I am in my elder years, still seeking meaning and purpose.

What am I here to do?

How can I serve using my gifts?

What is my life’s purpose?

My dreams were to be a successful, published author, to share my journey with a kindred spirit, to travel extensively, to teach spiritual truths in written and spoken words.

Not all have come to fruition as I had thought or planned. And I am still waiting, even as time collapses around me and grows shorter. Beyond the externals, however, what is it I really seek? This is the question that reverberates in my mind in the early hours of the morning, that chants like a litany through the still of the night.

What is truly of worth in life?

Perhaps I am in the process of soul-making. “This is not always a happy thing,” writes philosopher and author, Jean Houston. “Crucial parts of it are not,” she writes. “It almost always involves a painful excursion into the pathos wherein the anguish is enormous …”

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 A friend tells me that I am in “bifurcation.” The word literally means “a fork in the road,” a point where an old life is ending and a new one is beginning. It is the scientific process of the caterpillar–of chrysalis.

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.

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.

I take a few more steps along the beach 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 sit down and watch it, struggling for flight. The wind pushes against it; the waves move in closer. I pick it up gently between two fingers and move it toward safety, up toward the dunes.

For some time, I wait, wondering what it will do. The butterfly still thrashes, yearning to fly, but it is hurt and needs to be still for it to heal. I want to comfort it, tell it to stop fighting. A sob catches in my throat.

In her book When the Heart Waits, author Sue Monk Kidd writes: “To suffer our darkness is to take the pained and broken parts of ourselves and rock them gently.”

I begin to weep for it, for my own brokenness and pain, for all the suffering in the world, and I rock it gently. We are all in the process of bifurcation, of letting go of what no longer works and finding new wings. We can do nothing but wait until healing unfolds, until life and answers are born.

I am learning, as Jungian analyst James Hillman writes, that our “soul is the patient part of us.” And I must allow myself to go into the unknowing spaces of my life, to live there with their tensions and sorrows.

I must have faith that even though I am mired in the smaller details of “what next,” God views the bigger picture and is comforting me, providing pockets of peace amidst the waiting. God is with me in the darkness and in the birthing process. And I must believe that as mystic Juliana of Norwich assured, “All is well and all manner of things shall be well.”

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 anguish and hurting on the earth.

I walk a few steps into the wet sand and then stop to look back one last time at the butterfly. But the circle is empty. Somewhere in the wind, my heart is soaring.

About Marielena:
mz head shotI’m an old woman. And to prove it I’ve been writing a long time, for more than 40 years. I’ve worked as a staff writer for newspapers and magazines and earned some impressive journalism and writing awards. For three years (2010-2012) my essays placed in the top 100 of the inspirational category of the annual Writer’s Digest Magazine writing contest.




2 thoughts on “Finding wings in the darkness

  1. So beautiful, Marielena! Thank you for sharing your story of bifurcation. I love the quote from Julian of Norwich and have it inscribed on a bracelet I wear almost every day. Some days, it keeps me going!


    • Thanks for your kind comments, Barbara. What a beautiful inscription to have on a bracelet! Also one of my favorite quotes. And thanks to you, for being such an inspiration to me to keep writing and telling stories.


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