Spread your wings

Female tiger swallowtail butterfly on a marigold

Usually, when butterflies land, they fold or close their wings up over their backs. This is a characteristic which distinguishes butterflies from moths, which tent their wings rather than fold them up. Butterflies will land and open their wings to bask if temperatures are cool. They need warm bodies and muscles to fly, and opening their wings may help some species to warm up faster. They also spread their wings to fly away – off to the next flower, migration spot, or to mate.

When I first saw this Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly perched on a marigold in my garden, I was charmed by its brilliant blue scales in the bright sunlight. Then I noticed the 8 yellow dots along the back edge of its front wings, the four tiger stripes across its yellow wing windows, and those six sweet crescent moons on the edges of the rear wings. (This is the female. Males lack the abundant brilliant blue scales.) Such beauty, color, pattern, texture captivated me. Then, she took off. Flying to another flower nearby and then on perhaps to other flowers in the fields and woods nearby. However brief our encounter, she left a lasting impression – a smile on my face, an opening of my heart, a lifting of my spirit.

When we humans spread our wings, we too can leave a lasting impression – whether we spread our wings to take on new challenges or opportunities, or simply open our wings and share the beauty, love, and truth in ourselves as we remain grounded in one place. Spreading our wings means using our talents and abilities (often for the first time), doing something new or difficult, or taking a chance on something or someone. It means we have enough confidence to move forward in our lives, to make a difference, to improve ourselves and the world around us.

I’ve been spreading my own wings a bit lately by committing to a new fitness program (MyPeakChallenge) to support my health and well-being as I embrace this decade of being 60-something (more on that later), expanding my knowledge and use of herbalism, and making more art. Those things all help me to grow personally. But, I still wonder how to spread my wings to make the biggest, best, most lasting positive impact on the world at large. Even after a very fulfilling career of teaching and leading, I feel like I’m not done yet. No – I know I’m not done yet. I still have this need, this drive to spread my wings to improve the world. The question is, “How”?

So, as I work through possibilities for my next world-improving project – mixing and blending ideas, problems, solutions, skills, and opportunities – I’m going to continue to look to nature for inspiration and wisdom. The butterflies, bees, flowers, trees, and a special mountain or two may just have the answer.

How are you spreading your wings these days? What difference are you making for yourself and the world?

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