Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Honoring the Past with Butterflies and Family



There’s a twelve day period in April where my birthday, my husband’s birthday, our anniversary, the interment of Don’s ashes and the sadiversary of my mother’s death all fall. Early on in my widowhood I decided to roll all those somber days into one outing to honor them with something life affirming to look forward to doing and planning. That something turned into an annual pilgrimage to a Butterflies Are Blooming exhibit. Friday was warm and sunny, a perfect day for my forth outing to the sculpture park’s conservatory where the exhibit is held---6,000 butterflies (60 exotic varieties) in various stages from cocoons to flying free. What could be more life affirming and symbolic of the cycle of all living things than that? I found an answer to that question: It’s mixing butterflies with three generations of my family. My two nieces and their three grand babies plus a daughter-in-law met me at the sculpture park for the toddlers’ first exposure to butterflies. The oldest boy just turned two, another boy is a few months younger and our little girl will be one at the end of the month.

As I was waiting for my family to meet me at the park, I watched eight busloads of children unload and their excited voices filled the long glass entryway. It was a prelude to the fun I'd have watching our three little ones in conservatory react to the butterflies flying all over the place or landing near-by to drink flower nectar, pollen, fruit or tree sap. The butterflies are also attracted to sodium which is why, at exhibits, they’ll often land on sweaty people (or those wearing bright colors). Sodium is one of the minerals they need to reproduce. I wasn’t sweaty but I had on a magenta sweater and a butterfly landed on my chest and lots of them would get within a foot away before abruptly changing their flight pattern when they figured out I wasn't a flower.

My favorite of the butterflies at the exhibit are the Common Morpho from the Rain Forrest, brilliant blue insects with five-six inch wing spreads. Their undersides are black so when they fly they look like flashes of blue light and their 115 day life span from eggs to larvae to caterpillars to their metamorphosis into such beautiful creatures is fascinating. At the sculpture park’s conservatory they fly low in pairs around and around following the brick paths. Supposedly they think the bricks are rivers beds and following rivers is what they’d be doing in the wild. From my first pilgrimage on I’ve personified a pair of Common Morpho as Don’s and my soul linked forever and I’ve loved them ever since. It's symbolic, of course. I really don't believe that but I do wonder if a human soul goes through a metamorphosis and while housed inside our bodies on earth maybe that's their caterpillar stage and when our souls mature and our bodies die our souls soar like invisible butterflies?

But I don't love the Common Morphos enough to buy one of the dead ones in the gift shop that are preserved and framed between two pieces of glass for $45.00. Preserved butterflies remind me of the first psychological thriller I ever saw, a 1965 movie called The Collector. It was about a sicko who kidnapped and imprisoned a young art student and the walls in the cellar where he kept her were lined with specimen boxes with row after row of preserved butterflies. But I digress. Back to what I was going to say about what happens to the butterflies in conservatory exhibits when they die and I wish I didn’t know this. Their little bodies have to be treated like hazardous waste. The butterflies come from all over the world and could introduce diseases into our ecosystem. It’s a shame that something so beautiful that gives so much pleasure to people of all ages should end up so unceremoniously. We romantics-by-nature like to think that a life lived well is remembered and honored with dignity. 

When my nieces were growing up I spent a lot of time with them and in lots of “playtime” situations like we did on Friday. It was a wonderful treat to have quality time with them again doing something that seemed to bring joy to all of us. The youngest boy was fascinated with the water falls at the park and his older cousin kept saying “Wow!” on the tram ride when one of the many sculptures came into view. I was surprised that someone so young could take an interest in art. The little girl---what can I say about a baby that lets me hold her without crying? She is so petite and sweet and she reminds me of her grandmother (my youngest niece) when she was that age. She was a good-natured baby, too, and never lost that sunny disposition in all these years. My oldest niece, a recently retired teacher, was the bookworm in the family and was famous for trying to teach her dolls to “read" when she was barely in kindergarten. On the tram today I saw that same quest for learning in her grandson who was working on his letters with a “No Smoking” sign posted in front of him. Even my mom’s classic prompt---may I have a cookie Grandmother dear?---found its way to our lunch table. The cycle of life. I highly recommend that other widows plan something special and life-affirming for their hard-to-get-through calendar dates. I am still wearing the smile I acquired from my day with the butterflies and family. ©

27 comments:

  1. Jean :

    you are brilliant positive woman. I so admire your attitude towards life. Don and you were both fortunate to have each other in their life

    Asha

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    1. Thank you! I agree. Don and I both marched to the beat of different drummer and we understood each other well.

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  2. I really enjoyed the paragraph about the Common Morpho. I knew nothing about them, but I know it would be joyful to see something that is brilliant blue with a five-six inch wing spread. I love your description: flashes of blue light. I can see how they would remind you of your connection to Don. We were in the kids' room yesterday when a butterfly flew by. Spring is coming no matter what the temperature says.

    So nice that your nieces could meet you there with their children. My friend and I used to take her grandson to a butterfly conservatory in a botanical park nearby when he was little. I think we enjoyed it as much as he did. I'm glad you enjoyed the day.

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    1. It's hard not to feel good when such lovely creatures are flying about. This is the first time I've gone with someone other than myself and on a day when all the schools have their field trips. I would rather go without all the school kids but even they added an element of excitement to the day. I hope we can all do it again next year.

      There is a little pond in the conservatory and at one point I counted over twenty Common Morpho sitting on the edge of the water. They are so beautiful. The garden has an arch of live orchids near by and it's such a wonderful, fairy-tale like place!

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  3. (Just noticed, you have a new title "2016 Flying Solo" in your blog roll - excellent title!, and pic - but no hyperlinked text. Also thank you for your blog roll - I have dipped in some of those blogs and found them all good. The Margaret/Helen blog explained to me - at last - why women were being exhorted to vote for Hillary, when I think gender shouldn't come into the picture and it should all be strictly on MERIT.)

    To hold the GRANDchild of the person you held at the same age!!!! that made me blink when I first read it. Then thought, its like when any parent holds their grandchildren, so don't know why I thought W!! ow initially.

    I didn't know about butterflies being attracted to sodium and sweat. Again, why should that amaze me when houseflies attracted to particular colours.

    I think I prefer my remembrance days on my own. I get a bit weepy, but consider that cathartic. ~ Libby

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    1. I moved the photo down the column so others might not think it's part of my blog roll. It's just a photo of me---no hyperlink. I suppose I need to find another caption than just "flying solo" which was inspired by seeing the butterflies this week. That picture was taken that day.

      I love the Margaret/Helen blog and wish they'd blog more often. Have you ever thought about starting a blog? I know one Australian from my caregiver days who does and she also made the transition to blogging about widowhood issues. But she blogs from a platform I can't link here. Anyway, I enjoyed getting to know Australia through her.

      This is the first remembrance day I've shared with someone else. I doubt I could have done that in the first two years after my husband died. It was truly made my day.

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    2. I don't have the discipline to start a blog, nor any real desire. Prefer to be a bystander and comment. But really appreciate bloggers like you who take the time to respond to individual comments. Some days its my only communication with a human. ~ Libby

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    3. Sometimes my blog is my only "human" contact, too.

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  4. Happy Birthday! Lots of delight and good medicine, including family wide-eyed at the fluttering butterflies and waterfalls and sculptures. When I get to brooding, like how I'd like to share this spring with a BFF, I realize that to my inner kid this IS the first spring she's seen. So I'd better hop on board to enjoy today's wonder, instead of being her wet blanket. Hooray! You found something that brings romance!

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    1. Thank you! My in-laws are taking me out to lunch this week so my birthday celebration continues.....

      You should take your inner kid somewhere special. This summer I'm taking mine on a picnic.

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  5. I am in love with this image: "... I do wonder if a human soul goes through a metamorphosis and while housed inside our bodies on earth maybe that's their caterpillar stage and when our souls mature and our bodies die our souls soar like invisible butterflies"? What a glorious thought. I have never even thought of our lives here in time and space quite like that, however, it rings so true to my very being. Thank you so much for this.
    Lovelovelove,
    Deborah

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    1. I'd like to believe in reincarnation so my idea that our souls use our bodies in a metamorphosis process seems a natural step. And our souls could be thought of as an energy force, too. Decades ago I used to read a lot of Far Eastern Philosophy and I've always been intrigued by the thought that a part of us does live on in a meaningful way (in addition to in memories we leave behind with other people).

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    2. Rings true for me too, Deborah. Jean, this is a keeper!

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  6. Delightful account interspersed with the day's reality and the memories triggered by the experience. I recall the pleasure of visiting the butterfly enclosure years ago at the San Diego Zoo where they flitted about, often landing on us. I've always wanted to drive up the Coast to an area where the Monarch butterflies migrate once a year.

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    1. Thank you. We have a place here in Michigan---Escanaba---where the Monarchs gather in late summer/early fall for their migration. It's such an amazing part of nature, that migration! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  7. I am with Deborah...that image of the soul and body is fabulous.
    Years ago when my mother lived in south Florida and we used to visit, a trip to Butterfly World was always exciting. At the time, it was the largest enclosure for butterflies in the country. And it was delightful to observe the little kids. My husband and I have had monarchs and tortoiseshells (in England) go from caterpillar to butterfly and it was fascinating to watch the different stages. Now, we occasionally see swallowtail butterflies on plants in the garden but we think the birds must eventually get them before they are given an opportunity to pupate.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. How interesting that England has Monarchs, too. I get a lot of Cabbage White butterflies in my yard and Banded Woolly bear caterpillar moths and Monarchs. One year I planted flower seeds in my nature strip that are suppose to attract butterflies. Milkweed is a plant they encourage Michiganders to leave where ever it grows because of the butterflies. Butterflies are almost as much fun to look for as hummingbirds.

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  8. Hi Jean, your tutorial needs a little update. The comment box will say how many comments are there. lol

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    1. Doesn't surprise me. It's been a long time ago since I wrote it. But you figured it out. Yeah!

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  9. This is a great tradition! Wow. My thinking is also reincarnation of sorts. We stay at one level of life until we are good at it (not perfect) then move up a level. I'd say we've done pretty well reaching to human stage in 2016 ... I think I started as a plankton.

    Isn't it interesting that so many of us have only computer human contact some days? Selective introverts!!

    And we should all treat our inner child to some fun. Yesterday I went to the beach with three other couples and spent two hours talking and seeking shade. Everyone brought lunch and chatted. The beach always makes me feel happy as a kid!

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    1. Selective introverts, good description! Sometimes, though, you can feel lonelier in a crowd than being alone.

      You sure live in the perfect place to be a beach lover. Glad you had fun yesterday.

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  10. What a wise choice to take all these emotional anniversaries and roll them into a multi-generational celebration of life! Both the butterflies and your family sound delightful. -Jean

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    1. Thank you! If my nieces and nephew were my children I'd be immensely proud of how they turned out.

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  11. Those bright blue butterflies are my favorites too! My Mother's favorites were the Monarch and one fall, she made my Dad, load up his truck camper and take us all, my sister, my hubs and I and kids to Point Pelee, Canada to see the Monarchs gathering for their migration. So glad we went, she died a few months later. That summer, while I was outside gardening, a Monarch came and settled on my left shoulder. I said, "Mother, is that you>" when I went back into the house, there was a phone message from my sister. She said she had been sitting out on her patio and a Monarch butterfly came by and landed on her shirt. It spooked us out, even though neither one of us believe in "signs" or any of that, we both said, "Hm-mm."

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    1. I'll bet that was really something to see in Point Pelee. I read somewhere that for decades people in a certain place would see black strips across the sky and it wasn't until recently that it was learned that it was actually butterflies in mass.

      The fact that a Monarch butterfly landed on both your and your sister on the same day would make me a believer in signs! That's spooky comforting, really.

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  12. What a beautiful post! Loved every word and could just "see" you and your kin having a splendid day together. Butterflies are like magic to me -- and I love your idea that we are all just cocooning in this life only to be born into the great mystery beautiful and free, souls entwined.

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    1. Thank you. It was a wonderful bonding outing with the three little ones. I saw two of them again today and I could tell there was a difference. I'm less of a stranger.

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