Garlands of Grace

We’ve all had them. Harried days when our stress level kicks up a few notches. Times when our thoughts are stuck on replay like a record player needle caught on a scratched LP.

One such day stands out for me. It had been an exceptionally difficult day at work. Like usual after getting home, I put on my walking shoes and hit the trail. Maybe I could walk my stress away? As my mind turned the day’s experiences over and over again, I was oblivious to anything else around me until some movement up ahead brought me to my senses.

A Monarch Butterfly fluttered at eye level then landed on a pine branch beside the trail. As I walked up to get a closer look, the butterfly lifted off and flew a few feet down the trail in front of me, landing on another low branch. This happened five times as the Monarch led me down the trail with its sweeps of flight. Every time I approached, it took off again. It was as if it was stringing an orange-and-black garland from evergreen branch to evergreen branch just for me.

Before I realized it, my mind had stopped racing. My cares fell away. A sense of the sacredness of this experience left me standing there in awe and respect. The words, With A Monarch’s Grace, came to me and before I got home, a poem by that name had begun to be written.

In an 1862 essay by Henry David Thoreau entitled, Walking, he writes about how he was “alarmed” when he discovered times that he had walked in the woods “bodily, without getting there in spirit.” He goes on to ask “What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”

Since my Monarch experience, I often reflect on this quote and how the butterfly brought me into that present moment with grace. Thoreau goes on in his essay to write, “Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in remembering the past.”

The butterfly literally showed me the way and gifted me with a mantra written in the last lines of the poem now framed in my office: With a Monarch’s Grace… Let me become all I am capable of becoming as a gentle being in the gardens of this earth.

Restoration from Nature is real. It fluttered its way into the center of my life that day and I have never been the same. How does Nature restore you? In what ways does Nature bring you to your senses? How have experiences of awe changed you?