Transformation: The Season is Changing and So Are We

The sun speeds south on the western horizon. Autumn equinox is near. Twenty or more chrysalises in the Monarch nursery still need to fly south. The hummingbirds are already gone

A female Monarch who eclosed last night rides my hand to the field and climbs on vibrant New England Asters. Sunlight pours through her wings like a stained glass window.

How I’ll miss these moments of release.

A flock of geese honk to each other as they travel south overhead, a sure sign of fall. What will I do in dark cold days of winter in this stay-at-home life?

I’ll have the dogs, local friends, and my son in the neighborhood, but no purple flowers in the fields, no Goldenrod and Sun Gold tomatoes, no butterflies. I hope to see my North Carolina son, but we’ve been unable to travel because of NY covid quarantines.

Pondering turns to fretting, so I bring my focus back to this morning, this blessed world of green, gold, and purple with orange butterflies. I live in a world without fire, a blue sky instead of orange smoke, and cool clean air. My trees and home are not burning. I’m not packed to evacuate.

Still, I need to find purpose and hope for the winter months ahead during a painful time for politics, justice, and climate. When this pandemic began in March, I looked forward to spring’s lengthening days. Now we’re heading toward cold and dark. Winter can be long and dismal here.

I’m grateful to rejoin the mythology class after a 6 month break. I’ll tolerate exhausting Zoomy hearing via cochlear implant because I need this group of women. We began studying mythology around 1990, although many of us meditated and studied together before that. I want to see their faces, even if only online, know their struggles and triumphs, and study the Egyptian Goddess Isis with them. (The ancient Goddess is not related to recent political names or groups!)

I plan to continue a weekly writing class I began in 2009 and follow my teacher’s suggestion to spread my Monarch writings and favorite photos on a table, all four years of them. Something might inspire me when I’m the guest in my guest room since no one else comes to stay. Monarchs teach me about transformation. I wonder about the symbolism of being birthed as an adult with wisdom and strength to ride the winds to Mexico.

I’ll make soup from vegetables I froze this summer and share it with friends. I’ll walk twice a day with the dogs and sometimes a friend, sheltered in the forest from the howling winds. I’ll load the wood stove and keep the house cozy, but the days of tea and conversation on the back porch end soon. I’ll sit near a warm stove and read with a dog or two at my feet.

I have beautiful nature cards from Lisa Baechtle, perfect for writing love notes to dear ones suffering to breathe and threatened by fire on the west coast. I’ll also write to those who live closer but feel almost as far away.

I’ll explore dreams with my therapist as I have since 2008, the year Vic died. She walks beside me in the Underworld and helps me find meaningful paths through Darkness and Light.

Comforted by possibilities and ready for breakfast, I head home with the dogs and look for the Monarch I released half an hour ago. She’s gone, riding south on the wind or sipping flower nectar to fuel her journey.

Like me, she waits for favorable winds.

***

How will you prepare for coming changes in your life and where you live? I pray for safety for those who struggle with fire, smoke, drought, and other climate catastrophes this year. For my piece about transforming with the seasons, see The Green Man’s Guide to Life published in The Edge Magazine. For a piece about studying goddesses, see Lessons from Artemis, Goddess of the Wild.

25 Comments
  1. “Sunlight pours through her wings like a stained glass window.” Oh, but to read your beautiful, poetical words once again Elaine is just heavenly! I’ve really missed your wonderful, inspiring posts my dear friend! Yes, with deep gratitude the season is changing as we enter the hallowed hall of autumn now with all her rich scenes and those shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.

    As always I love your great photos, especially the yummy looking soup one! Ha-Ha! My spoon was hovering in mid-air earlier … just for a taste! And my, hasn’t your beloved, dancing Disco, grown! Willow on the other hand just oozes wisdom. Wow! Your Monarch photographs are just beautiful. My favourites are those ones where the butterflies are resting on your magickal hands.

    I absolutely love your teacher’s idea of spreading out your Monarch writings and favourite pics on a table, to see what comes up! Recently, I underwent a similar process and gathered up all the poems I had written over the past five years and have spent the whole summer creating a second book. I genuinely believe that inspiration and imagination are the most auspicious of all winds.

    Love and light, Deborah.

    • It’s delicious to hear from you, Deborah. I wish we could share a bowl of soup. I look forward to your new book. When is the due date?

      Autumn arrived early here and it’s oddly cold for September and will be too cold for the Monarchs to fly for 3 days beginning on Friday. I’ll set up Monarch camp for those who eclose during that time with a roomy crate in a south window and room service–a plate of grapes halves, sliced oranges, watermelon, and sugar water to keep them fed until they can fly south on Monday when it’s warm again. There are 15 still in chrysalis, but I’ll do my best for them. It’s been a long and prolific butterfly season and it’s good they’re not in the southern US facing a hurricane right now. We’re having crazy weather here in the climate and in politics. It’s a little scary, but the Monarchs and dogs aren’t worried. May we both have the auspicious winds of inspiration. Sending love and light to you.

      • The final copy proof will be landing in my hands tomorrow via the UPS truck! I’m beyond excited!

        What a marvellous Midwife and Mother of the Monarchs you are! As butterflies symbolise growth and change, watching their stages of development take place must be like watching a living miracle before your very eyes. And it’s amazing to imagine all your butterflies, each year, making their way south and congregating on their butterfly trees. Oh, how you’ve earned your wings!

        I have faith that you’re being guided by the whole experience and that your own creative transformation will be taking place on a table real soon!

        • You must have it today, Deborah! You did it. I released 8 Monarchs yesterday, so over 130 this season with about 10 more chrysalises to go. I appreciate your faith in me. I’m trying to be patient. I have no idea what’s next other than getting these Monarchs on their way and harvesting the garden.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful meditation on change, and things that hold us throughout.

    • Thank you, Harriet. I see lots of early morning fog on the lake, keeping you warmer down the hill than up here. My morning walk was cold. The Monarchs shivered (yes, they shiver in cold). Time for a fall jacket and to bring the remaining brood inside for the weekend.

  3. Elaine, I’m more of a wordsmith than a numbers person, but I counted on my fingers nearly a dozen wonderful things you share as points of gratitude: monarchs, flowers in the woodlands, your writing class, a Zoomy mythology group, possible visit with your NC son, etc. And dream exploration. You have a full harvest of thoughts here. Maybe it’s just the angle, but I notice your pooches seem to be more alike in size.

    Your lovely stew would transform me from hungry to fully satisfied. Yum!

    Like you, I ache for those dealing with fires, drought, hurricanes and know that although these catastrophes are real, helpers will arrive. What I can do on my own is send $$ to feeding the hungry in NE Florida and pray for the hurting beyond that. Here’s to transformation of heart, body and soul – and miracles!

    • Dear Marian, I wonder about you and the most recent hurricane, plus the incessant political pounding you’re getting in FL. Here, a lot because of our governor, people are calmed down, playing by the rules, and keeping safe. Covid levels are low in my area, but many many people lost their jobs. I’m glad the worst of hurricane is missing you and I hope you get rain if you need it. My sky is hazy with smoke from the fires 2500 miles away, all being directed east by Hurricane Sally.

      I’m giving donations to our
      rural foodbank because so many have lost jobs and also sending money to people evacuated by fires. And ACLU which has more crises than they can deal with. There are too many disasters to name, and that’s only in this country, but I have faith we’re being guided and transformation is taking place. No one promised us that transformation is pleasant. Be well and safe.

      • Thanks for the good wishes for weather and more. Sally has bypassed us although we are getting rain today.

        I’m not aware of political pounding in Florida, maybe because I curate what I listen to and we also have a benign mayor.

        Yes, giving food donations is my thing too!

  4. Heartbreaking as the world is at the moment, I too, have so much to be thankful for. I look forward to the cold weather, sitting with hot tea, good books to read and a journal to keep as the fireplace brings warmth light into the darker days.

    • Those are lovely things to do, Joan. The Blessings of Winter. I love my wood stove (with a glass front door) for the same reason. Sounds like this weekend will be cool here and possibly a freeze. I’ll put a fire in the wood stove if it gets that cold. I still have about a dozen Monarch chrysalises so they’ll probably eclose this weekend when it’s too cold to fly. I’ll bring them inside and feed them fruit and sugar water until it gets warmer. I hope they’ll fly on Monday. Be well and safe.

  5. I feel your words, Elaine. It is time to make plans for the long hard winter ahead. Planning and taking stock of our resources is going to be the only way to survive these bleak times. And practicing gratefulness for what we still have. I’m scared. But I know there’s a way to make this a time for growth and discovery. I, too, remember looking forward to the summer, the light, the possibility that life would get easier. There was no clue then that we’d be in such an extended craziness that stretched the whole world over. Okay, paper and pencil ready—I’m starting my lists of what I have, what I will need, what I can possibly look forward to. And how I can be helpful to others around me. Cheers!

    • Sounds like a plan, Robin. I’m stocking up on food and books. I’m grateful I feel safe in my home and that my dogs will snuggle near the wood stove with me. Sounds like we’ll have a hint of winter this weekend. Just a touch to inspire us to get wood on the porch and pick the last vegetables. Yes, I had no clue what we were in for when I went to the grocery store in March and the toilet paper aisles were empty. This experience gives me empathy for my mom and many people who had to wait out World War II for 4 long years with my dad in the Merchant Marines. It must have felt endless just like this time does. And, unlike so many others, they were safe in their homes.

  6. Such a beautiful post Elaine thank you. You highlight all the transformations so profoundly. Even the vegetables undergo transformation in the cooking process which reminds me of the psychological process we undergo eg cutting, chopping, adding, stewing, steaming. From the raw to something else entirely. Like your Monarchs.

    Yes this new time of Autumn brings with it its own ‘requirements’ of somethings in Nature lying fallow, buried deep underground, always there, resting. Here Spring is upon us, but it’s always fickle. A man is coming to my home in about a hour to help me with some planting of plants that my sister gave me yesterday, plus also to do some serious weeding of my aloe, cactus and succulent garden. Those weeds sprung up from nowhere, but I guess because its Spring the weeds also grew. When we were out in the garden this morning we saw a hadeda (a type of Ibis bird, large) with a wriggling snake in its beak. At first I thought it was a large worm – what to do what to do … alarm the bird so’s to release the snake? We agreed to leave it and watched for a while – It gave me cause for pause.

    • You’re looking at spring, Susan, a time for renewal and growth. Weeds grow! It’s been an unusually dry year here which means more watering, but less weeding. There are fewer birds than usual and fewer insects, probably because of climate change. The ibis-like bird with the snake sounds like an Egyptian mythological image. I would leave it, too. The snake was likely already injured by the bird. Living beings are fragile and everyone has to eat. It’s hard for me to accept that truth but I learn it from the bluebirds.

  7. Hi Elaine. You’re blessed to have so much beauty surrounding your home. Your soups sound welcoming on a chilly day. I am still trying not to focus on the dark depressing winter without my winter escape. I’m hoping a vaccine will come out early next winter and I’ll jump on a plane to Mexico. Hope floats. And I’m stickin’ with it. 🙂

    • I am blessed by beauty, Debby. Thanks for reminding me on this sad morning after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death–as though this country needed another jolt. The vultures are circling in Washington, D.C. I’m trying my best but not successfully to stay calm and accept that the future is not in my hands. I’m making soup this morning. That’ll settle me down. I hope you get to Mexico or someplace warm this winter. Blessings and safety to you.

  8. It is a time of transformation, Elaine, and you write about it so beautifully. It truly helps for me to know that others like you have faith that we’re being guided, when I can so easily lose touch with my own faith and guidance. And it’s important to remember, as you wrote in your response to Marian, “No one promised us that transformation is pleasant.”

    It has been such a sad time, made more so by the smoke in which we’ve been enveloped here on the West Coast, and then this past week our beloved old dog Olive had a stroke. We brought her to the vet the next morning, where she died peacefully. She is buried under a willow tree by our pond, and I have been hanging a feather in her tree each day. Yesterday when I went out to her tree, a great blue heron flew overhead, perched at the top of a nearby tree, and seemed to participate in the ritual. It feels essential to keep celebrating the moments of beauty and good fortune in our midst when there is so much that is unraveling, including the death of beloved RBG.

    Tomorrow is the equinox, and I will be sending special blessings your way as we enter the darkest time of the year. I love to think of you making soup and wish I could meet you in person over a bowl of it. It does feel like you are a kindred spirit.

    • I feel guided, and I doubt, Anne. I have to hold both sides and keep moving through each day. I’ve had incredible guidance and good fortune in my life, including the decision with my husband to live where I do. And to have met incredible teachers when I needed them–now through books, through interacting with women in a mythology class, through interacting with wise women like you.

      It’s easier to be philosophical when I don’t smell the smoke or look at an orange sky. And to have your beloved soul animal die at this time when you’re already grieving. I’m glad you have a close place to bury Olive and can continue your rituals each day or whenever you’re moved to hang a feather. I find myself going to Vic’s cairn often these days and leaving little treasures like feathers or acorns or flowers from the path. How wonderful to have the Heron participate. On my birthday morning, I opened the window to a Red Tailed Hawk delicately perched on a tiny bluebird perch. I took a photo through the window, but when I opened the window a crack to get a better photo, it flew.

      There is so much unraveling. I don’t know how RBG hung on as long as she did, suffering to stay here for our country. The body and the Higher Powers have the final word, and it’s not for me to understand. I think of her when I release the last Monarchs (4 more to go when they eclose). The darkness and cold are coming and I didn’t think things could get worse, but they get worse. Unless we humans figure out how to live in peace and share the resources, it’s the end for all of us. Nature is bigger than our clever human technology that benefits the rich and not the poor.

      Let me end on a higher note thinking of your gratitude for Olive, the feathers in the Willow tree, and the ways we honor beauty, life, and love. Thanks for sharing your ritual here. Sending you a virtual feather.

  9. Oh, my dear friend, you have pick another sensitive moment of our life to open one’s eye looking around. and you have so wonderful choices to spend the coming dark and cold time. And as you know; this winter will be much harder than the others; through the pandemic. But as also we know; we must learn from the Monarch, and from the nature to keep going, with the help from Mythology and Egyptology, to remember our lost wisdom.
    Somebody once told me; we don’t actually change, we get just older and must try to remember.
    Have a nice time dearest Elaine and stay safe and strong.

    • Thank you, Aladin. I’ve changed in a few ways, especially since Vic died. I’m more patient and I expect less of others and of life. I’m still working on expecting less of myself.

      I’m grateful to have friends and my son not far away and living in this rural place feels more protected than any city could be. Hearing loss trained me well to be alone with nature and my dogs. I already have firewood stacked on the front porch for the first fire of autumn, but haven’t started one yet. I have books and an interesting article from the Jung Society of Southern Africa about the details of the Isis and Osiris stories. It’s such an old story and so complex, so it’s a lot to understand. I’ve studied various other Egyptian Goddesses and I’m learning how the old, old stories interweave and then spread into Europe and Greece.

      Wishing you safety and strength, too. We’re in an impossible mess in the United States, but things keep changing as they always do.

  10. It sounds like you’ve come up with a solid plan to get through the autumn and winter. I’m glad you have such a good online support system!

    • Thanks, Lydia. Life always unfolds differently than I expect and I get less done than I imagine I will. I’m grateful for online friends. Maybe we’ll have a Canada meet-up someday. I miss Toronto, but I’m glad I love being at home.

  11. Hello Elaine

    What beautiful words you write, such an inspiration. These are troubling times we must remain hopeful. The seasons are changing here in No Va as well. I am an avid Gardner but new to the care and release of Monarchs. My son and I planted milkweed this summer and succeeded in caterpillars but only 4 successful releases so far. They are so beautiful as you said their wings are like stained glass in the sun light. They bring us hope in their transformation. Be well and thank you again for your beautiful words.

    Lucrecia

    • Thank you, Lucrecia. I find in the hardest times that there is always something beautiful or loving in life. It doesn’t make the trouble disappear, but helps me remember that’s not all there is to life. I’m glad you’re tending Monarchs. What a great thing to do with your son. I bring my caterpillars into a Monarch nursery to keep them from being eaten by the many predators out there, but not everyone wants to bother with this. I like watching their transformations and have 3 left in chrysalis. I hope they eclose soon and can join the migration. Blessings to you, your son, and your butterflies.

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