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Birthday reflections: The Oyster & the Caterpillar
Seeking transformation and solace as I mark the start of another whirl around the Sun
At last night's Birth Your Truest Story Open Mic, I read a short piece, "Inspiration from the Oyster and the Caterpillar," about the transformation that can come from time in darkness and solitude, wrestling with what troubles us, and dreaming of taking wing.
My piece is appended below.
I wrote it in the darkness of the 2020 Winter Solstice, when the world was sunk into the gloom of COVID-19, and I was very much alone in my own corner of darkness, trying hard to find some Light to keep me going.
Now here we are a few years later, with Covid in abeyance, but still assaulted daily by all the usual horrors of wars and environmental catastrophes, political idiocy and human cruelty, the never-ending battery of bad news.
Under such assault, I tend to pull back. There is a reason my parents used to tease me by calling me a "mollusk," shyly peeking out at the world and quick to slam my shell shut at the first sign of a threat.
By night I seek the solace of sleep under glittering stars; by day I calm myself in the quiet of the forest or the timeless roar of the surf on the beach.
Of the two archetypal creatures, the Oyster and the Caterpillar, I am more Oyster, hoping to shed a few pearls here and there as I process all that troubles me.
It seems possible, as I look out into the world on this anniversary of my many whirls around the Sun, that I won't achieve the grace of the Caterpillar in this life, at least not until death comes for me and brings my spirit wings.
I vividly remember watching a Monarch caterpillar in its cocoon jerking and trembling as it engaged in its deep, invisible transformation. Then all went still. Slowly the walls of the cocoon thinned and turned from green to black to translucent, revealing the vivid orange, black and white outlines of wing patterns.
I am still locked in the "jerking and trembling" stage. I can only hope that by sharing my experience through writing and other expressive arts, I can bring a little Light to my comrades on this journey through life.
That is my birthday wish today.
Inspiration from the Oyster and the Caterpillar
I have been thinking of the oyster lately. How she spends her life alone, down in the deep dark of the sea; how the craggy peaks on her roughened shell express her toughness and resilience; how inside that calcified fortress she is tender, soft, vulnerable and sweet.
I have been thinking about how it’s the irritation of a bit of sand inside her shell that gets the oyster creating.
No sand, no pearl.
She takes a sharp-edged bit of silica and works on it patiently, secreting the layers of creative juices to transform ordinary sand into lustrous pearl.
Alone in the dark, the roaring of the great sea around her, she is like the caterpillar in her cocoon, working her magic with methodical, rhythmic attention.
I have never seen an oyster creating a pearl, but I have had the great joy of watching a caterpillar transform into a cocoon.
She fixes herself head down on a sturdy stalk, curling her body up into a J. Her soft body jerks and vibrates, magically changing into a hard shell. Once the shell is complete, the vibrations stop and the deep transformation begins.
You know she is almost finished with her work when the walls of the cocoon become translucent, and you can start to see the veins of the butterfly wings outlined inside.
Moving into the darkness of the Winter Solstice period, I am embracing the inspiration of these two exemplary creators: the oyster and the caterpillar.
One takes the irritants that beset her and transforms them into beauty.
The other unhesitatingly embarks on total transformation, trusting the inner guidance that assures her that even in the face of complete dissolution, all will be well.
I know that as a human, I am sand in the tender flesh of the oyster of the world.
As a human, I am an earthbound crawling caterpillar, focused on munching, unaware of the great cosmic and Gaian rhythms that so generously provide my sustenance.
In this dark season, I offer myself up for transformation.
May the rough being that I am, slouching through these times of crisis and sorrow, be taken up by the world and made beautiful.
May I emerge from these lonely struggles with new energy, insight and sense of purpose, ready to grace a world so in need of loving attention.
Upcoming opportunities for writing & sharing together
Tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 3, I’ll be offering the first of a three-session online memoir workshop focusing on writing about family.
We’ll do some generative writing in the spirit of what I am coming to think of as “kaleidoscopic writing”—turning the wheel of our perspective to gain a fuller understanding of a memory. Come join me!
Join the Free Birth Your Truest Story Online Community for Writers!
We have some great events coming up at BYTS, including a Poetry Workshop—for Prose Writers! Join us!
Poetry as Attention, Poetry as Love, with Allie Rigby, Nov. 5 & 12, 1 - 3 pm Eastern. Register here.
Check our online Events Calendar for a steady stream of online coaching and writing sessions, classes and events designed to nourish your writing practice and build community! See it all here.
Riding & Writing
Monte Velho Equo-Resort in Evora, Portugal, January 7 - 13, 2024. A week of dressage lessons on beautiful, well-trained Lusitano horses, plus guided writing sessions and plenty of time for relaxing and exploring the hill country of the Alentejo. JUST ONE SPOT LEFT! Find out more and register here.
Hestaland in Borgarnes, Iceland, June 10 - 16, 2024. A week of riding spirited Icelandic horses in beautiful rolling countryside, writing in good company, and soaking in the hot springs and Arctic Summer Solstice energy of Iceland. Find out more and register here.
A window into my life as a Solo Entrepreneur
I was recently invited to join in a virtual parade of solo entrepreneurs based in the Berkshires, and I’m happy to share the story with you in this short video produced by series curator Sherry Steiner and Operations Manager Erica Spizz of Community Television of the Berkshires.
If you’ve been curious about my work as publisher of Green Fire Press, or would like to see a cornucopia of pretty photos of my recent writing workshops abroad, check it out!