The Butterfly Keeper
A retired Butterfly Keeper. That’s me. I retired from my profession of keeping butterflies. One day I opened the doors and let them all go. When I did this, a funny thing happened… I too grew wings and flew away. It’s like I knew how to fly all along but, well here’s the story…
To all of you who find it difficult to love and let go. You have it all inside you to fly great distances.
Once upon a time there was a girl, River Fox, who loved to go outside and play. She really loved singing to the birds and talking to the animals. Tulips were her favorite flowers and when she would see them in her grandfather’s garden, she would try to pull them out so she could have one or two for her very own. Really, she just wanted to nicely pick them, but not understanding how bulbs grew, she would pull them by the stem and her grandfather would scold her and under his breath calling her a little monkey shyster (with love, of course).
She pretty much grew up with her grandparents, spending as much time with them as she did at home with her parents. When she was 11-years-old, her grandmother became very sick and died within months. This made River Fox very sad and caused her to lose her child’s happiness. She quit singing to the birds and quit caring about the tulips and plants. It was as though she had lost her mother. Her grandmother was the solid rock in her life. The person who really understood her deep sensitivity that often seemed like too much to others. After her grandmother’s passing, River Fox didn’t really know how to deal with her grief from this great loss. Coincidentally, it was also the time when she was about to become a woman and go through all kinds of changes that can be difficult for children of that age. It seems that when a great loss occurs around this age, it can cause feelings of abandonment. River Fox felt very much abandoned and could not make sense of why her grandmother would leave her.
6 months passed by and River Fox couldn’t remember a thing that had happened during the long dark days of winter. When she awoke again in the spring, she no longer knew the girl she used to be who sang to the birds and loved to pick flowers. She was a whole different person. Like a princess warrior in not-so-shiny armor, but in armor nonetheless. River Fox’s sadness continued, she became depressed and didn’t care much about herself. She felt like if she ignored her own grief and put her focus onto others, the deep pain of this unhealed wound wouldn’t sting so much. At her age, this was an unconscious decision to grieve in this way. She didn’t know any different.
This is how River Fox got into the business of catching caterpillars and keeping butterflies. It is an odd sort of business, you may think, but she just had a natural attraction to it. Caterpillars would naturally crawl into her life. She was, after all, a kind of born earth goddess. River Fox was born on Earth Day and was singing to the birds as early as she learned to talk, so it was one of those things that happened without her really realizing it.
The only problem she encountered with raising these creatures was releasing them once they grew wings. If you’ve ever tried to keep a butterfly caged, you’d know that it doesn’t work well, for anyone. But after raising caterpillars and dealing with them through some of their less than appealing stages, they would become beautiful butterflies and want to leave. It didn’t seem fair to River Fox. So, she tried and tried to keep them, but it never worked. She tried changing their cage to make it a little more appealing to stay. She would even pretend to be their type of butterfly, but after all that work, they would still insist that they needed more room to spread their wings and fly. This always caused a great deal of suffering for River Fox. She didn’t want the butterflies to leave like her grandmother had left her all those years ago. She wished for a butterfly of her very own.
In trying to keep winged creatures caged, her own wings were damaged. River Fox had forgotten that she even had wings all those years ago. It was back when her grandmother died that her wings were starting to grow and although there were times they had grown between then and now, they were never really given a chance to grow strong enough to fly the distance she desired in her heart.
After many years of raising caterpillars to be butterflies, River Fox started to think about retiring from this business. She reflected on all the things she had learned over the years. The most important thing she learned is that butterflies cannot be kept. They come and go and some stay longer than others. This is the natural way life works. Mother Earth cares for everything so much that she will provide everything we need at the time we need it. Even though it was the most difficult decision she ever had to make, one day River Fox opened the doors and released all the butterflies so they could be on their way. But once the butterflies were released, an unexpected magical thing happened and River Fox herself turned into a caterpillar. She spent some time as a fuzzy caterpillar then went into a cocoon and though it took awhile to shed her cocoon, River Fox’s damaged wings were mended and she became a beautiful butterfly. It was only then that she would truly understand the power and beauty of letting go, trusting Mother Nature and always being true to herself.