The Hike From Hell

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tiger swallowtail, courtesy pixabay

Humid, sunny, no breeze, no water, no hat.  A horse-fly repeatedly dive-bombs, then burrows into my hair with an angry buzz.  Waving walking poles at it,  I whack myself in the head.  Good Lord.  Did I mention 7 ticks on my person?  S-E-V-E-N.

Trudging up the final crest, a litany of complaints was in rehearsal, performance scheduled for an audience of one (my husband).  With gaze fixed glumly on the ground, I happen upon a pair of tiger swallowtails.  Returned to the present moment by astonishing and surprising beauty, I stop in my tracks.

And you know what comes next.  This stopping of whatever you are doing Mr. Alexander termed ‘Inhibition’.  Having stopped usual habits (i.e.–trudging, mental rehearsals, downward pull compressing my spine, etc.), I then have the opportunity for something else.  Usually something much better.

Please note:  optimal conditions are not required for choosing optimal Use.  In other words, you can, in the most unpleasant of circumstances, stop and receive whatever is right in front of you.  This provides greater ease and comfort in the physical body, and a lightness of mind as well.

That performance of complaints?  Never happened. The swallowtails stole the show.

Trees and Their Butterflies

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hackberry butterfly, asterocampa celtis

There’s a butterfly here in Ohio called the Hackberry, named after the tree on whose leaves its larvae feed.   I had no idea.  That is, until this morning, when one sunned itself on the wood siding of the barn, its brown speckled wings closing, then opening, its proboscis a precise spiral, each antennae topped with one white ball, like the protective coating on a bobby pin.  This obliging butterfly waited while I fetched a reference book and flipped through the pages until he could be identified.

I had walked the farm lanes for decades knowing nothing of this butterfly, a member of the Nymphalidae Family, who relies on the hackberry’s existence for its own.  I did know about the sound of the wind through the branches of the hackberries in midwinter.  Guests to our hillside retreat had seen the black snake who curled up in the cool crevices of its shelter.  I marveled at the sight of red-tailed hawks perched on the highest limbs for the best views of the fields.  It was a benevolence; the cool shade of the hackberry trees on a  summer day.

How I miss them.  And here is what they taught me about being in a body….

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hackberry tree, farm lane

Let’s consider what happens when the wind blows strongly.  Things move, yes?  A tree’s branches flail about, the silver undersides of their leaves flashing.  And that was the extent of my observations, until one day, I noticed that not only did the branches respond to the wind, but almost the entire tree, yes, even its trunk.

In the tree’s pliancy was its resilience.  Could I let the winds and gales of my life bend me, thereby not breaking me?  Could I move and act, instead of freezing and shutting down?

Some call them ‘weed-trees,’ but I know better.  Thank you, hackberrys, for this lesson.  And thank you, dear brush-footed butterfly, for visiting the hill today.  My heart sings to know there are still hackberry trees nearby, and that your life began on their welcoming leaves.