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Fog and Butterflies

The metamorphic possibilities within our souls are endless.

It creeps in like a bank of fog just off the coast, Sandburg’s “Little Cat Feet,” and it watches us silently for a time before it moves on. It’s like that, this stealthy virus, in the way it sneaks upon us, but otherwise, it’s evermore beastly than a cat.

I planned to travel to Albania on March 20th to speak at two schools, the result of a series of serendipitous events resulting from a Skype call in the classroom experience a year ago. Even as I made reservations, there was talk of the virus, but it seemed too remote to be worrisome. I was excited and energized about this opportunity to speak about my books to students and faculty at two schools as I purchased tickets on January 22, 2020.

Within three weeks, friends start urging me to reconsider. News from China, Korea, and Italy begins worming into my thoughts. Even though there are no known cases in Albania – after all, who goes to Albania? – and only a slight cause for concern in the airports I will pass through, I cancel the flight on March 9, 2020. While I am on hold with the airline, a teacher from one of the schools sends a text to say classes have been canceled indefinitely.

The nature of this beast quickly turns exponential. By Thursday night, March 12th, the pastor of my church cancels services and all meetings, gatherings, and activities for two weeks. This news hits me hard. About eighty percent of my life is connected to this faith community. I spend the next day canceling events I facilitate and receiving cancellations of events I follow. Despair, in spite of my faith, threatens to creep in on those little cat feet.

Saturday, a day often jammed with double-booking conflicts, dawns with a stark, blank schedule. Restlessness sets in. There are at least two postponed events I should/could be working on, but I have zero enthusiasm or motivation to do so. They’ve been moved to late April, a far-away place that does not hold meaning for me right now. Two weeks? How can that possibly be enough to cause the bell curve to flatten in the US, bringing us into less danger as the scientific experts advise, and how do I cope with this stretch of stagnate time?

Sunday morning, I wake with new energy and something that resembles peace, partly because no early service means more sleep and the possibility of a relaxed pancake breakfast. I have just enough time to walk off this sumptuous treat before the live streaming of services begins, another first that allows my clergy husband and me to attend a service side-by-side. We settle onto our couch-turned-pew and tune in to three sermons, including one delivered by our own clergy son. I’m sure he’s mindful of his worrisome mother as he preaches how God spreads His grace, one day at a time, just as he provided manna to the Israelites wandering in the desert. Note to all hoarders including me: the leftovers turned rancid if kept overnight. One day at a time is clearly the message I need to hear.

I stroll around my yard, released from fussing about tomorrow’s manna, freed to rejoice that the North Carolina Spring is arriving in good health without cancellations. The Buddleia in my yard has new leaves, promising purple flowers to entice the butterflies, hence its common name, the Butterfly Bush. Anticipating this season’s colorful visitors flitting around this bush later in the season piques my imagination and inspires a novel -pun intended – thought. This present time of cancellations, of social distancing, of disrupting normal life for the sake of slowing or stopping the Covid-19 virus is like being a caterpillar inside a chrysalis. Around the globe, we are being encapsulated, stopped in our busy-life tracks, and handed a time frame, at least two weeks if not more. For each of us, the clock is ticking, and if we follow the guidelines and wait it out, we are more likely to emerge unscathed and well, even beautifully new.

The metamorphic possibilities within our souls are endless. We could all leave this cocoon with new and gloriously bedecked wings. Some will gain new skills. Some will discover new or buried talents in art, writing, music, cooking, or an endless array of unique pursuits. Others will find new direction, new focus, new purpose in life through innovative forms of social media, expanded forms of communication, maybe six-foot-apart encounters on the street. Many will face new challenges that are not positive, like loss of jobs, death among family or friends, and mental health that has deteriorated. In all circumstances, it’s important to remember this: we could all gain new wings, new tools, new perspectives before this is over. Imagine the caterpillar’s utter astonishment when he realizes he can fly out of the cocoon instead of crawl. To top it all off, he wears a spectacular new outfit, a gift according to the terms of the confinement.

This I know: Fog does not mute the magnificent splendor of butterflies.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

-Carl Sandburg-

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