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  • Each year, the Museum of Natural History here puts up an exhibit called “Butterflies Alive!”

    They bring in about 5000 live butterflies, and give them safety and shelter in a huge, netted open room, an outdoor garden, with rocks, granite paths, waterfalls, pools, and butterfly-friendly flowers and shrubs.

    Lavender seems to be one of their favorite plants.

    You walk in through the security doors, and suddenly, you are surrounded by these most exquisite of creatures.

    So many varieties! Such gorgeous colors! And they seem happy to share themselves with all of us, with our cameras and close up shots.

    They come and light down on your hands, your arms, and your clothing, with no fear, only perhaps a kind of butterfly curiosity. “Is this edible?” they may ask. We cannot know.

    The exhibit is open for most of the summer, and each year I have been back many times, just to savor the intimacy of the experience, and catch these magical beings on film.

    They are very partial to watermelon, and there are always several “watermelon bars” for them to linger at, and refresh themselves. Of course, some them overdo it, probably get a little drunk on the sugar, and then all they want to do is sleep in the sun, which makes it even easier for photos.

    A friend of mine in Second Life has taken my photos, and used them to create 'virtual butterflies,' which I use in my landscapes there. The butterflies from the exhibit are now cyber butterflies, with a kind of virtual immortality.

    There is much we can learn from butterflies, and they deserve close observation and meditation.

    In fact, I have always thought of this stunning exhibit as a butterfly meditation garden. Being a symbol of metamorphosis and transformation, the butterfly reminds us that it was once just a simple, unpretentious caterpillar, crawling along, with no sense of flight, or the sky, or an afterlife.

    Suddenly, at a certain moment, the transformation begins, and the caterpillar wraps itself up in a cocoon, within which it melts down completely, into a soup, with no identity whatsoever.

    Then, the new creature starts to form body, wings, legs, eyes, and at just the right moment, starts to wriggle out of its transparent casing, and wait for its wings to dry, so it can fly away into the new life.

    And us, you and me, when we feel at wits end with life, when we feel that we are going to suffocate, when nothing works any more, when there seems to be no hope left, when we forget who we are or might be, when we go into what seems total meltdown…

    At these times, we can remember our winged radiant angels of change and reinvention. We can be patient with our transformation, even when it seems that nothing is happening.

    And then our own butterfly moment will come, as it must, by the law of Love, when we realize we are completely changed, completely new, and we can spread our wings, and lift upward into the light, into our new life.

    (Photo taken at the natural history museum Butterflies Alive! exhibit by AJN, in Real Life)
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