Category Archives: Environment
“Beauty is the promise of happiness.” — Stendhal
Often, we are too busy or self-absorbed to notice what is beautiful in people and in the world around us. We hurry along, focused on ourselves, inattentive to what really makes life worth living.
The world is filled with beauty – winter twilight over the desert, a child’s laughter, a scene in a movie, the sun on the red stone walls of Sedona, a weeping willow, a lively song, our beloveds face. If we are attentive and learn to slow down, we will see all around us signs of beauty that speak directly to us.
We don’t have to go to exotic places to find beauty. It is here, in our lives, all around us. Finding it, we carry it with us, and our lives are enriched. The language of beauty is the language of joy.
- Stendhal moments. Overwhelming beauty in scientific research – at Boijmans in Rotterdam (eyemagazine.com)
- Photos from our trip to Sedona (mn2az.blogspot.com)
Do you suppose it’s true; for a human being to ever see a butterfly in our lifetime is a miracle? Someone shared this factoid with me a few years ago, and then I heard Katie Couric mention it just before she left the “Today” show. After hearing that, I did some searching of the Internet, looking for some data that would give me the odds of one seeing a butterfly or not in one’s life. Surely, someone has done the research and worked the numbers, haven’t they? I found that someone worked the odds for the Monarch butterfly; specifically those that have been tagged to give scientists the ability to track their migratory path and successful arrivals to their seasonal home. For someone to see a tagged monarch, the odds are over 3,500,000 to 1.
I love butterflies. The butterfly is a symbol of hope in for me. This past October and November found me riding the bus back and forth to the same appointment each day. From the bus stop, I walked along a jogging path used by a middle school or high school. From the very first trip I made, to my very last, each day I was “escorted” by a pair of Monarch butterflies that would fly seemingly while performing the tango. I can’t be sure if it was the same pair each day, but I am telling you honestly that every day two butterflies flew right along me for that one-third of a mile hike I made. At a time when I was feeling so lost, alone and afraid, there was my symbol of hope, right there at my side.
From what I can recall from Katie Couric’s brief mention of the odds of seeing a butterfly on this earthly plane and in our lifetime, it is important to note that even though our population has exploded, we still are not populating the planet all that densely. There is still about 7.5 miles between each human on earth if the entire surface was livable. Then there is the butterfly’s struggle from larvae, to pupae, to the big show of the transformed winged creature all worth noting. There are so many predators and things that could go wrong in this transformation. Perhaps it just isn’t necessary to know the odds. I think I’ll just be satisfied knowing that each time I see a butterfly, I’m witnessing a miracle!
- A Symbol of Hope ~ The Butterfly (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- California’s monarch butterflies in peril (photos) (news.cnet.com)
- Watch the birth of “super Monarch butterflies” that live 10 times longer than their parents [Video] (io9.com)
“If Winter comes, can spring be far behind?” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
I live in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. For those not familiar with our desert climate, we do in fact experience a period of winter weather. We can experience some very cold temperatures during the month of January; lows can dip to below freezing at night and only reach the low to mid 50’s during the day and a relative humidity in the negative. There remains however plenty of green and flowering plants to trick the mind when the eye shoots a quick look out the window and sees the majestic palms and the deep blue sky with seemingly unending sunshine. Occasionally those of us who grew up in the winter grasp of the Midwest begin to long for that time of hibernation. I know I do. I miss snow, bundling up with hats, coats, mittens, boots, scarves and more. I miss warming up the car and days when no one goes anywhere because the snow has us shut in for a day or two.
I have learned that we do not need to be afraid of winter. In winter nature lies fallow in preparation for the New Year. All life needs rest in order to grow with greater strength and winter is the time of withdrawal that precedes renewal.
Sometimes, it may seem that our lives have become dark and hopeless and we can’t see a way forward. I felt exactly as I’ve just described, many times over. Perhaps, it came when a relationship failed and I thought, “This really has to be the end”, or my business was going badly; money became a problem, or the loss of family ties or connections. I became lost in my melancholy and felt that things would never get better.
I knew that I could draw some strength from the wisdom of the seasons. Bare trees will become clothed in green and the hard earth will again yield harvests of plenty. I learned to appreciate this transformation as it happens every year and I take hope from it. I can see my life also as bound to change! From this wisdom of the seasons I grew this affirmation which is ready to be plucked from my jar of affirmations when the time is right: “Nothing in my life need defeat me, since I know that spring and summer will always come again”.
- Snowy Winter Photography (noupe.com)
- Gahl Eden Sasson: Christmas Grinch and Mercury Retrograde (huffingtonpost.com)
“We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment” — Margaret Mead
Our environment is composed of everything around us as well as that to which we are related. We do not exist separate from our environment, but are part of it – a mutually supportive, living universe. I need to know this relationship and to experience myself deeply as part of a healthy world. I believe that many in this world, like myself; have at some point become isolated from the world, leading us into self-absorption and misery, where we just don’t care.
My attempt toward personal growth includes building new relationships, making new connections, getting in touch with my Self and with the beauty that surrounds all of us. I choose to move out and explore and cherish the world in which we live. We all belong there and need to nurture it as well as ourselves.
Through personal growth, I gain the energy to reach out and care. Let’s work together for healthy relationships in a healthy environment where we all feel “at home”.
“I am part of all that I have met.” — Alfred Tennyson
Too often, I have lost my way by forgetting that I am part of a community, a society, a world. There were low points in my life when I closed myself off from others and drifted off all alone. Fantasy, rituals and acting out took me not out of myself, but deeper into loneliness.
As we all maneuver and make our way through life we make contact with others even if we don’t realize it. Looking, talking, smiling, touching, eating, walking, working, playing – all these activities are likely to bring us into contact with others. And the way we act and react does make a difference. Often, a simple smile can make someone else’s day. A hug breaks the ice of solitude. A kind word strikes a chord and is remembered.
Yes, we are all part of the interconnected web of Life; referred to by some as humanity; and we get love and power simply from knowing this. I want to feel part of a strong, healthy and loving community.
- Ten of the best mirrors in literature (guardian.co.uk)
A Short Story About a Butterfly
She was a beautiful butterfly and she belonged to someone now. Her delicate wings glistened in the light like stained glass windows in a cathedral. She sat on a little twig, her big dark eyes peering out at the world from behind the protection of her glass enclosure. She was happy. She was safe from the world, out there, content to live within the confines of her glass jar; days spent flying and fluttering about almost forgotten.
One day, a boy took the jar with the butterfly in it and carried it outside. “Butterflies should be free,” he said. The butterfly wasn’t so sure. She clung desperately to the twig, terrified of this sudden journey into the unknown world. When the boy got outside, he took the lid off, shook the jar and said, “Okay butterfly, fly free!”
But the little butterfly didn’t want to fly free. She liked her safe little home inside the jar. She liked the twig upon which she perched. She liked the constant temperature of the air, the cool feel of the glass against her wings when she spread them wide. She did not want to fly free. The little boy became agitated. He shook the jar again and again until finally, realizing the butterfly was not going to come out, he threw the jar to the ground and smashed it into a thousand pieces.
Suddenly exposed to the chill of the air, the butterfly cried in terror. “What have you done? You’ve ruined everything!” The little boy didn’t understand. The butterfly quivered on the grass, her wings shaking, her eyes tearing. She wouldn’t move from the twig to which she clung. “Stupid butterfly,” he said before turning his back and walking away.
The little butterfly watched him leave and wondered what on earth she was going to do now. Where would she go? How would she ever feel safe again? Just then a gentle breeze came up and stirred her wings.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
“It’s me. The Wind,” a voice answered.
“The Wind you say? Come on, who are you – really?”
“I can be your friend,” the Wind responded.
“Ha!” chirped the butterfly, her voice rising in condescension. “I don’t need a friend. I need a glass jar.”
“How do you know you don’t need a friend? Have you ever had one?”
The butterfly didn’t want to listen to the Wind. She wanted to climb back inside the security of the glass jar and be safe. “Go away! Leave me alone.” The Wind didn’t listen. He tickled her wings and ever-so-gently stroked her body. The Wind caused his gentlest breezes under and over her as he coursed through the air. “Stop that!” The butterfly cried. The Wind’s friendly breezes were encouraging her wings to unfold.
She did not want her wings to unfold. She did not want to let go of the twig to which she still clung so fiercely. The Wind listened, but reasoned with the butterfly, explaining his many centuries on Earth and the experience he has gained with which he only wishes to do acts of kindness; his present act of kindness will benefit the butterfly greatly and bring great joy. With that, he grew stronger. He couldn’t stop his swift breeze from naturally lifting the butterfly off the ground.
“What? What’s happening?” she cried as the earth began to fall away. “Stop it! I’m scared.” The Wind continued to ignore her cries as he carried her further and further away from the broken pieces of the glass jar that was once her home. He carried her to a garden of bright, brilliant colored wild flowers. Their velvety faces pointed up towards the sun, the colorful heads nodded in joy against the gentle caresses of the breeze as it carried the butterfly through their midst.
“Oh my gosh!” cried the butterfly. “Look at all the colors. What are they?” she asked as without thinking her wings began to move up and down by themselves and she began to flit among the multi-colored hues of the flowers. “They’re your friends,” the Wind whispered into her ear.
Suddenly, the butterfly realized she was flying. She stopped moving her wings up and down and landed with a plop on top of a flower. “Oh, sorry,” she said as she struggled to gain flight again. The flower, a bright sunny, daisy with many arms smiled happily and replied. “Don’t be sorry. You’re helping me grow!”
Just then, another beautiful butterfly came flitting by. He saw the little butterfly struggling to lift off from the flower and settled on a petal close by. “Hi,” he said, his eyes twinkling in the sun. “What’s your hurry? How about sitting with me awhile?”
“Who are you?” the little butterfly asked, trying desperately to fold her wings into her body to avoid touching his.
“I’m a butterfly,” he replied. “Just like you.”]
“Hmm,” the little butterfly thought for a moment as she digested this new information. “And you live out here?” “Where else would I live?” he asked. Growing tired of sitting around in the sunshine, he spread his magnificent wings and took flight. “Come on,” he called back to the little butterfly who watched in awe as the sun caught his wings and cast beautiful colorful prism onto the ground. “Let’s fly!”
The little butterfly looked around. Amidst the flowers hundreds of butterflies flitted joyfully among the flowers. Here and there a big fat bumblebee buzzed its way around as it busily gathered nectar for its hive.
The butterfly wanted to be like the other butterflies she could see around her. Carefully she unfurled her wings. She felt a tickle of breeze caress her skin. She felt her body lifting up. Leaving her fear behind her spread her wings and took to the skies. Beneath her, the glass shards of her forgotten jar glistened in the sun. In the distance, the little boy played ball with his dog while all around her the world revolved in magnificent splendor as she began to fly. She was free at last. Free to feel the Wind beneath the wings, as she moved beyond the memory of her glass jar into the big wide world around her.
– Helen Hoover
Helen Hoover was a writer about nature as well as being a metallurgist. She died in 1984 at the age of 74.
President Obama has in the last two days, begun to rectify some of the environmental mistakes made by the Bush administration. California and some other states will be able to set their own, higher emission standards. Yesterday, my minister at the Unitarian Universalist church I attend discussed how we can have a right relationship with our environment and interconnected web of existence.
I began thinking that sometimes, in my grandiose view of myself and the world, I think I have all the time and space I need to do my will. But in reality, our resources are limited, and already we are losing needed material and precious species that will never return to our planet.
Let us remember we are here only for a short while, but others will come after us. We need to take care of our earth just as much as we need to take care of ourselves. If we think only of our own pleasure, we are likely to become selfish and live destructive lives.
Those of us who have chosen a path of personal growth probably realize how much we have squandered our energy and dissipated vital forces. We may have tried to impose our fantasies and our wills on other people and we abused those who needed our love and trust. We thought we were little gods and that the world was here just for us. We can still learn how to have that right relationship with the world that surrounds us. It is good to be aware of all that is special in this world, including ourselves.
- I am a Unitarian Universalist (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- Advice and support for someone with no family (ask.metafilter.com)
- One Congregation, Many Paths (timesunion.com)