Learning to Abide
Summer walk at Rockefeller Park, late afternoon amble
around the lake, crossing the bridge of stones, I stop to
soak in the warm hot sun. I stand still. Baking. Then
walking, slowly into the shade, I come upon some horse
droppings, "road apples" they are sometimes called. As I
adjust my step to avoid a direct encounter, I notice flying
nearby a black butterfly with light greyish blue markings
and flecks of orange and white. I want to see the colors
more closely. The blackness combined with the light blue
attracts me. Black, in this situation, calls forth to me
all that is unknown, hidden and difficult in this world.
Light blue calls forth to me the presence of the Divine
Mother. I get closer to admire the light blue and darkness,
unified in the butterfly's wings. I stand still and soften
And the butterfly lands on a ball of the excrement, as
though it was finally home! I pause, a long long pause. I
watch. The butterfly appears to be eating something from the
surface of the large turd. Gross. It stays there for 5
minutes or so. Then it starts to flutter about, coming near
me, circling around me, and then, finding another "road
apple" on which to feast, it settles once again. I know I am
being shown something that my mind can not grasp. Something
about something very beautiful not being afraid of the shit
of this world, but easily resting on it, WANTING IT.
I have never thought of 'butterflies' and 'horse manure' in
the same sentence before, and it is the first time I did NOT
want a butterfly to land on me.
When I get home, I look up "butterflies and horse manure" on
google, and discover that a butterfly sticks its proboscis
out and sucks the nutritious liquids and minerals from the
feces, receiving nitrogen and phosphorus that it absolutely
needs. The males especially need the minerals to develop
sperm, to continue their species.
This factual information, however, does not address the
sense of wonder and confusion I feel. Two things that don't
typically seem to go together AT ALL, are in fact in
reciprocal and harmonious relationship with each other.
On first glance, I identified with the butterfly, as a
part of me that longs to be transformed and be FREE of all
the shit of this world. THAT butterfly in the park was NOT
AFRAID of the shit in this world, but in fact was totally
comfortable with it, AND sought it out. Perhaps similar to
the lotus flower which rises above the muck, with its roots
deep in the muck of a lake, the butterfly becomes MORE of
who it is supposed to be by not fearing the darkness or
bad-smelling parts of the world, but lives by diving INTO
it, even finding essential nutrients for its vitality, and,
unmarred, it still remains a butterfly, free, and
In the quiet woods,
not moving, perched on horse turd,
butterfly sips truth.
Here is a visual link - it's not the same butterfly as I
saw, but it certainly conveys the juxtaposition.
Photo by Carla Robertson, www.livingwildandprecious.com
I continue on my walk around the lake. It generally takes
about 45 minutes, but today I enjoy an unusually slow walk.
As I turn the far corner of the lake and start to head back,
I notice a small skinny-legged bird in the swampy region of
the lake, more shaded, more stagnant waters. The bird is
perfectly poised and deeply unmoving. I join its stillness
and breathe awhile. As I watch, I notice the bird is in fact
imperceptibly moving, and with the elegance of a prima
ballerina, is stretching its leg an inch or so forward, with
time also stretching into a measureless flow. Somehow,
without making a visible motion, the bird places its foot
and, taking all the time in the world, shifts its weight.
THIS is graceful slow motion like I have never witnessed
before. The bird would move, but did it? Stillness in
motion. Not disturbing anything around it, not even the
water's surface. When I told someone about this, he
commented that the bird was preying, but I think it was
Now focused on the darkened waters, I continue my walk
round the bend. I see two small turtles out on a thin log,
fairly commonplace at this lake but still a welcome sight.
A third turtle struggles to get up on the thin log and join
them. The newcomer falls off, swims away, and I start
tracking his underwater path by watching the ripples in the
water and the algae. Occasionally it surfaces. As it swims
to my left, I notice another much larger rounded log. To my
utter shock and dismay, the log starts to move and a
head-like object starts to lift and protrude above the
surface of the water. There is a long neck expanding and
thrusting forward and the branch-turned-into-a-head now
opens its mouth, sliding along the water’s surface. I watch
with incredulity. I can not believe my eyes. I have visited
this lake for over 20 years and NEVER have seen such a
turtle here. It's head is easily the size of my clenched
fist, and its shell, at least that I could see, was about
18" in diameter from side to side and at least two feet in
diameter from neck to rear. Its total length with head and
tail extended is over 4 feet. The movement of its head as
it eats is scary! This pre-historic head comes lurching out,
elongating 6 to 12 inches from the shell rim, opens its
mouth and bites down on the algae, with a kind of slimy
ferocity.... then the head retreats back towards its shell.
I cannot take my eyes off this new discovery.
Whereas before, I was quite content to have my own
experiences with the butterfly and the bird, now I feel an
urgency to share this discovery with others! It is so
spectacular, I cannot keep it to myself. Fortunately, many
people walk and run here, so I have a couple of
opportunities to show others: an Asian woman and then an
older couple with their daughter. They relish the new
sighting, too, and are appreciative that I stop them and
bring the turtle/sea monster to their attention. As I start
to leave, I notice a photographer about 25 feet away from
me. As I pass him, I mention the turtle I have been
watching. He seems eager and interested, so I show it to
him. I tell him I have named the turtle Larry. Captivated by
the scene as well, he takes these photos.
Here is Larry:
Photo by Hugh Brown 2015
Photo by Hugh Brown 2015
Leaving the park, an awareness arises:
All living beings already know how to be deeply still.
They just do it - they don't have to take a yoga course or
go on meditation retreats.
It is built in to their nature, and they are guiltless in
We humans, too, are wired for stillness.
It's a part of our intrinsic nature.
We've just forgotten.
In slowing down,
all is revealed.