Journey With Butterflies
I am eating my skin today.
It's the old skin that I crawled out of two weeks ago after a sweat lodge. I laid on the earth in the deepening twilight and felt the misty rain gently help me let go of the skin I had outgrown.
I was ready to begin my journey to the spirit of nature with Tom Brown and Seven Arrows.
Butterflies have been medicine teachers for me since my early childhood. They fascinate me. I used to try to catch them, but they always flew away from my movement. So they taught me my first lesson in stalking. But as I held their wings, they struggled so I quit catching them. In time, I learned to invite them to rest on me, freely. I am always honored when they choose to do so.
I grew monarchs as a child. I knew the stages of their life, but not intimately. I would wander for years and thousands of miles before I reconnected with this winged teacher.
Sometimes I've felt like I knew more at age thirteen than at any other time in my life.
I knew then where my true path was - I would live with the earth, build my log cabin, make whatever I needed, eat wild foods, wander among the awesome beauty of the earth mother, and feel my connection to creation.
My dream was to homestead in Canada. At eighteen, I went to Winnipeg to check out the Canadian homesteading program I'd heard about. But the people there didn't want any more young, idealistic Americans coming in, and they told me there was no such program.
So I shifted my focus. I thought maybe I could rent or buy a place somewhere in the U.S. Financial considerations entered my world, a shadow beast I wanted nothing to do with. I fought against the trap of modern society, the exchange of my precious life for money. I vowed never to have a "real job," the 8-to-5 kind, 5 days a week, that owned people and killed their spirits. I watched it happen to my friends, and strengthened my resolve to never let it happen to me.
I wandered a lot, traveling the western U.S., living in Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, and then the big leap -Alaska! Maybe here I could live my dream!!
I had finally graduated from college with a B.S. in geography, but my trade was bicycle repair. I loved to ride and I loved to work on bikes. So I moved to Anchorage and, for more money than I'd ever made in my life, I worked on bikes in a sports store.
There were two problems with this move. Everything was more expensive than anywhere I'd ever lived before, so I needed more money than I ever had in my life. Also, the biking season is very short up there, and soon I was faced with a decision - either keep working at the sports store through the winter as a salesperson (which I hated) and take a pay cut, or move back to the lower 48, or get another job.
I got a job as a cartographer/ graphic artist for the municipal government. At first it was good, and I had more money than when I was fixing bikes, and change was always exciting for me.
Then winter came, and darkness, and I had to face the awful truth. I had fallen into the trap. I now worked five days a week, 8-to-5, for money that I needed to pay my bills. I made four times as much money as I ever had before, but it cost four times as much to live there. I was in no better a position financially than I had been before. Worst of all, I had given up - no, I had sold my freedom from clocks, and with it, my self respect.
What happened to my dream? I felt betrayed. Yet I had no one to blame but myself. Once you have fallen into the trap, it is very difficult to get out, isn't it?
So I stayed. After three years, I transferred to a better paying job, appraising real estate for taxation. Many times I felt worse than ever - yet I had more "freedom" since I had more money. I could go to Hawaii, New Zealand, California, and back home to visit South Dakota.
The irony was hysterical. Here I was, one who doesn't even believe in the concept of land ownership, telling others how much money their piece of mother earth was worth!!
Many times I hated myself.
Yet I knew it was my path. I didn't know why, but I had to stop fighting it and accept the lessons mother earth sent me.
After six and a half years in Alaska, my path took me to Washington, D.C. Once again, I had to face my shadows. I harbored deep distrust of cities and the people who lived in them. By age thirteen, I knew I never wanted to live in the east. At least studying geography had opened my mind to the beauty of the land there.
So my path led me to confront my prejudices. The people I saw as shallow and incapable of anything deeper than television news and weather, were only a reflection of what I allowed them to be. It was here in the metropolis that I found spiritual connections and began an intense inner journey of self-discovery, release, and healing.
I went on my first vision quest two years ago. I was told to continue my healing path, and to seek fellowship with other two-leggeds. I also renewed my second dream - to be a massage therapist, allowing mother earth's healing touch to move through me.
The pace of my spiritual awakening accelerated. Too many "coincidences" have been happening: a massage school opened within minutes of my house, costing me half the time and money of the next closest one; I followed an advertisement in Pathways quarterly to a four-day Stone People's Lodge Workshop that began the day after I graduated from massage school and connected me to the Seven Arrows community; I went to Hawaii right after Stone People's Lodge Workshop and did my second vision quest on the big island home of Pele, the volcano goddess (she shook me out of my fanciful dream of moving there with an earthquake and the message that my work here wasn't finished yet); I returned to the city and followed my new Seven Arrows connection to the Journey to the Spirit of Nature session July 1-5 in West Virginia.
I met Tom Brown, Del Hall, Ingwe, Jon Young and other teachers. My body/mind/spirit was ready to receive the truths they shared.
I have come full circle in my spiral path. I know again that I will live with the earth. I can feel great changes coming. Even though I have gone back to my job and my life in modern society for now, this time I consciously chose not to shut down my spirit. And that is a lesson I needed to learn before leaving the "trap."
The week after the Journey, I found massage work in a small town in West Virginia. I am making a transition from modern society back to a simpler lifestyle. I have found my faith in the abundance of the universe, and trust that my needs will be fulfilled.
Tom Brown was right - my life has been changed forever.
I reconnected with monarchs soon after I moved to the city. And here I have truly received their teachings. I have watched the caterpillars move inside the eggshell, chew their way out and then eat the shell that protected their growth and change. As they continue to grow, their skin becomes too small for all they are ingesting. They must stop and be still for awhile as they let their skin become transparent. Then it splits, and they crawl out of it. They are very vulnerable and without their accustomed protection for a time. The new skin gradually becomes less fragile, and they are free to continue feeding voraciously, ingesting vast amounts of nutrients and filling their new boundaries. But before they move on, they turn around and eat the old skin, taking in and changing the old protective barrier into nourishment for new growth.
Today, with loving honor and deep gratitude, I am eating my skin.