Tag Archives: Nature

Simple Choice

There was simplicity of a crisp, stark January morning of my youth that I miss, today. It was not that mornings on a WI dairy farm of the fifties were easy, for life held to a thread of shelter from the cold. It was that necessity simplified the choices: Certain things had to be done without exception or equivocation. We simply did them.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

It has been my goal since youth to simplify my worldview (long before I knew I had one) to a form I could understand. I do not wish to simplify the universe. I choose to simplify my model of the universe so that it makes sense to me. I have done the same with the meaning of life.

“The meaning of life is choice.” To the dismay of many students and the amusement of others, this statement has appeared and continues to appear on many of my exams. Students are free to choose “true” or “false” for their answer, and therein resides the meaning of the test item.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Simplicity is not easy and the choice of simplicity is not often the easy choice to make. It is routinely easier to choose the common, culturally accepted, trendy way of material complication and social drama. It is easier because we do not have to dare individuality. That is where the complication begins.

The laws of the universe are simple. We make them complicated looking for ways around them. We waste the years of our lives searching for ways to extend the years of our lives. We waste time and material trying to protect time and material. We waste our passion looking for the passionate.

Live. Today.

Simple, yes. Easy, no. That is our choice.

There is profound simplicity in acceptance of the personal reality of our present. Acceptance is abundance, and abundance is absence of poverty.

A spiritual person is never alone. Solitude is grandeur, Nature is cathedral, and reality is blessing.

Solitude and people are not mutually exclusive. By simple choice, I can enjoy solitude in a crowd. Also by choice, I can share the peace of solitude with willing others.

Simplicity undefines poverty for simplicity is its own abundance. There is need for neither material complication nor social drama.

Acceptance of simplicity undefines strength as competition for status and stuff evaporate. There we realize power—true, personal power.

Can you ignore the still, small voice inside you that mutters agreement with my claims?

Can you deny the tracks and traces of joys remembered of simpler times?

Seek the evidence within.

Happy Tracking

Spiritual Honesty

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. September looks at honesty.

I love cedar swamps. In them, it is easy to find the god of my understanding. Perhaps because they contain so few human tracks. Perhaps because I find it easy to get lost in them.

There have been times in my life when I felt as though I were lost in a cedar swamp in a fog on a moonless night. I had been walking on a raised logging road but wandered off. Now, I had no idea which way to turn to find that road.

Tall trees covered me in shadows from starlight smothered by fog. No wind. There was absence of reference.

My eyes blinked to no avail. There was nothing to see, nothing to feel.

No, not true. I could feel something deep down inside.

Cedar swamps have pitfalls. There are holes between the tree roots, deep holes filled with water and sometimes covered with floating plants. It is easy to step in one so deep your foot cannot find a bottom. It is an interesting experience in daylight.

How can I find my way out, assuming I want to. I have heard Tom Brown Jr. say that you are only lost if you have someplace to go and some time to get there. He attributed it to his Apache mentor, Stalking Wolf.

Have you ever had no place to go and no time to get there? Funny thing about such a condition. It is conducive to comprehending spirituality.

“Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.”(Vine Deloria Jr.)

Lost in that cedar swamp in fog on a moonless night is an opportunity to get honest with one’s self. I can feel my way with my feet. I can reach out for the next tree. Or, I can take a deep but gentle breath, exhale, and ask for help. If I want to get out of the swamp, I can ask a simple question. “Which way should I go?”

No answer. Spirituality is not easy like that. It is simpler. For the primitive spirituality of gut feeling, all that is required is a simpler question: “Is this the way?”

I face a direction and ask that simple question and wait for the feeling in my gut. My gut is tight. That translates, “No.”

I turn (clockwise because my question is a prayer and I honor the customs of my Native American grandteacher, Stalking Wolf) and ask the question, again. I do not utter the words, only feel the question in my heart.

I have a friend, a veteran of WWII, who shares a quote from one of his teachers. “Prayer is a sincere desire of the heart.” If my wish to find my way out of this swamp is a sincere desire of the heart, it is prayer.

Honesty is a raindrop. Spiritual honesty is honesty from the heart, such as a teardrop.

I turn and feel the question. I wait for the answer. Any release of that feeling of tension in my gut is, “Yes.” That is the way I step, again and again, until I step upon the road.

The honesty required is, first, to admit I am lost; second, that I no longer want to be lost; third, that on my own, I will stay lost. Then, I have to get viscerally honest. What is the sincere desire of my heart? Finally, I have to be honest enough to accept my gut feeling to sense that release of tension.

I love cedar swamps. I do not mind being lost in them. But, I do not choose to wander into them on foggy, moonless nights.

Sometimes the tracks we need to find are in our own hearts. Happy tracking.

Choosing Love

It ain’t easy, this love stuff. The instruction manuals are not written in English. Maybe that’s why some of us need dogs and little children to teach us how to do it. Labrador Retrievers are really good at it.

Dr. Hart counsels Combat Veterans upon the hazards of getting stuck in our combat roles. If we had a lot of responsibility in combat, we tend to take on responsibility back at home. If we had little responsibility in combat, we tend to avoid it at home.

Me? I tend to get stuck in the middle. I was a Lieutenant.

I do not like making decisions—at least, not alone. I tend to feel traumatized, as though I were still deciding who would die, or afraid I might make a mistake and the wrong people would die. Life or death choices are not for me.

I taught school and got sick every semester at grading time. Imagine how I would have done as a surgeon or emergency room physician. I couldn’t even be a paramedic although I know biology and have a knack for diagnosis and triage. So, I avoided it.

After several viewings, Forrest Gump still amazes me. He always knows what love is. He always seems to know the right thing to do—good at life, you know. Of course, when he didn’t know, he ran for a few thousand miles. I tend to sit in the woods and listen to the wind.

One reason Combat Veterans isolate themselves is because we see people as more dangerous than lions, tigers, and bears. Fear is that reason, and it makes sense in combat terms.

Another reason is love. Yes, this is another dilemma. Love is the antidote for PTSD, but it also causes us to isolate. I have found two reasons for this.

First, loving and losing is painful. It goes back to the avoidance of FNGs, the new guys. People who have experienced combat loss of friends simply choose not to make new ones. It hurts less when they die.

Back at home, we lose all our friends. They get reassigned or ETSed (Expiration of Term of Service). So, even if we all make it home, we lose each other, anyway.

Second, being loved is also painful. Oh, sure, it feels wonderful to have an intimate friend, someone we can trust, but….

Isn’t there always a but? Being loved is a big responsibility—because it entails power. Being loved gives us the power to disappoint, fail, or otherwise hurt someone. For Combat Veterans stuck in the middle (between seeking responsibility and avoiding it), this is another dilemma.

Now, add some symptoms of Combat PTSD. The Veteran is certain to disappoint, fail, or otherwise hurt the very people who love him or her. We cannot help it. Our brains have been trained, even re-wired, that way. After awhile, we get very tired of failing at love. So, we avoid it—the very thing that might support our recovery.

Love is a grave vulnerability for most Combat Veterans because it threatens us with more loss, both loss of our loved ones and loss of ourselves when our disabilities fail us in love.

We cannot recover alone. We need love, but we need more. We need understanding. We need mature love beyond philos of brotherly love and way beyond eros of sexual attraction. We need a Natural love.

We must relearn that failure is not terminal. And, we need friends who can accept our defects and failures as progress.

When a Combat Veteran returns without an arm, we no longer expect him or her to applaud. When a Combat Veteran returns with a shrunken hippocampus and working memory, with an aggressive amygdala, and a need for security, we must not expect her or him to enjoy party crowds, fireworks displays, and air shows. It is us, the people who stayed home this time, who must change our expectations.

Changing our expectations is a way of choosing love which just might grant the Combat Veteran freedom to choose love, again. Is that too much to ask, America?

Delight

I sat in the woods with my aging dog,
Just watching Nature abiding,
When I came to know a little thing,
Without us even trying,
The dancing trees in graceful wind,
Light, colored, satisfying,
We sat immersed in something real,
Beyond our space and timing,
“Delight,” came the answer.
Without me even asking,
Ah, but I had held the question,
How will I ever,
Love enough?

Delight, a noun, 1: a high degree of gratification: joy.
Delight, a verb: to give joy or satisfaction to (Merriam-Webster)

I find it difficult to be happy, grateful, and delighted as I watch my friend and companion of thirteen years cripple away. Serenity is a beautiful Yellow Labrador Retriever, the smartest and kindest animal I have ever known, and that is saying quite a lot, and I suffer her pain. I grieve her dignity lost with incontinence, her independence gone with legs no longer capable of steps or ramp, and her tremors and confusion at sundown.

But I delight in our memories.

She taught me delight. She showed me joy in her leaps into the lake after a stick, her digging in the earth behind my shovel, her dragging the little trees I cleared, and the way she greeted people with the solid expectation of adoration.

Serenity shared her delight in the world. She began whining a few miles away from our Nort’ Woods home, getting frantic before our camp came into sight, so I had to let her jump out of the truck and run around. She always came back wet from her own little swimming hole at the stream. But those were younger times.

There was the time I laughed aloud hunting grouse with friends because after I shot at the bird zipping by, overhead, all I saw falling were leaves. Serenity came bounding, without training or being called, to see what I had. She came back with the grouse, delight dripping from her face.

Her hearing is gone and her eyesight dim. Even her nose is not what it was, and her old legs cannot get her over the logs. So, we don’t hunt, anymore.

And soon, way too soon, I will have to end her life. In that I cannot delight. But I can cherish her memories and her lessons.

If more combat Veterans had Labrador Retrievers, I believe there would be a lot less PTSD in this world. Maybe life is not meant to be so complicated. Maybe the whole point is delight. That’s what she taught me. Because I love her, I delight in her delight. And because she loves me, she hangs on, trying to give me another delightful memory.

And tonight, when her delight turns to fright and I cannot soothe her, I will know we are right, the time is near. But tomorrow morning, for a few more tomorrows, we will delight in one more walk in the woods. And I will be grateful.

Gratitude is a form of delight, and delight is the sincerest form of prayer.

Natural Love

“A brother is a friend given by Nature.” (Jean Baptiste Legouve)

There once lived three brothers working on a farm, aged 5, 10, and 15. That was long, long, ago.

The eldest left the farm to drive truck and the others stayed.

When the middle son had a medical condition briefly preventing him from working on the farm, he drove truck with his older brother, but he stayed on the farm.

When the youngest brother graduated from high school, he drove truck with his oldest brother for a summer before he left the farm for college, and the middle brother stayed.

When one brother needed help, the others showed up. It’s what they knew, lessons from their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Money changed hands, time was shared in passing, deer were hunted together, parents and other family members buried, joys and sadness lived.

Years turned to decades and the middle brother went to trucking, but he stayed on the farm. The eldest continued trucking through his heart attack, through two open heart surgeries, and well past an age of retirement.

The youngest son retired from teaching, once, and went back for more. The oldest brother finally gave up trucking of medical necessity but returned to the farm to summer in an RV, work the garden, and help with farm chores. The middle brother lived in the same farmhouse he entered at age 4, continued trucking, and worked the farm in between. The youngest brother returned in summer to occasionally dabble in farm work.

Summers became a time of reunion as the eldest brother returned to the Wisconsin farm from Florida and the youngest visited from Arizona. The brothers laughed, played Sheepshead, and sweated together, again—home…home on the farm.

Always, the farm remained open to family. And, so, another summer brought the eldest home. Eighteen years past his second open heart surgery and thirty three past the heart attack that brought the first one—and the arrest on the table—find him rototilling the garden, mowing lawn, feeding and watering horses, pulling wagon loads of hay, and generally contributing what he can.

The youngest comes to visit for a week, invited into the house with his sick and dying dog, sleeping on a screen porch much like he did as a teenager, throwing a few bales of hay just to say thank you, or, mostly to feel the joy of honest work on the old farm.

After a hot day of hard work, the eldest reflected on the condition, the contribution to the farm, the opportunity to return: “I just love this…for the end of my life, really.”

The end of life may be sad, but it need not be tragic. I have seen too much of the tragic, people withering away far from home, if they ever had a real home. Not all families share this kind of brotherly love, this simple contribution of time and talent with each other.

Maybe that’s the point…of life, I mean, to have a home to enjoy at the end of life. What do you think?

Love Enough?

There is a story in my first novel, BEYOND THE BLOOD CHIT, that I now confess to be based upon personal experience. Okay, there may be a few. This one happened in my woods in the summer of 1999.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

Have you ever had a question lodged in your mind, swelling like a bean in water, pressing upon your conscience and consciousness for duration? One probably does better attending to such questions until a complete answer is articulated. Peace of mind demands it.

I went to the woods in search of answers and came back with a question.

A Vision Quest is a commitment of mind, body, and spirit to devotion of some purpose. I marked out a small circle, about twelve feet in diameter, on a hill above my stream valley. I laid out raingear, sleeping bag, and four days supply of water. I set up a cedar pole nearby but out of sight where I would tie a flag each morning to indicate my wellness to a friend acting as protector.

At dark dawn of Day One, I entered my circle from the East.

I frequently advise people in a hurry that if one day seems too short, try a Vision Quest.

I sat between the Sugar Maple and White Birch, leaning against a rotting stump. When I became bored, I watched something moving—anything—Quaking Aspen leaves, ants, inchworms, even clouds. Cloud watching usually becomes big by Day Three.

When emotions arose, I danced around the perimeter of my circle. Here I would stay, except for potty breaks and one daily trip to the cedar pole, for four days, or at least until I got answers. Come Hell or high water.

High water came with midnight of Day Two. It was called a “Storm of the Century” and really did bring a 100 year flood that seemed focused on top of my head. It filled my little stream valley with 6-8 feet of water, raised the lake 2.5 feet, and washed out several roads including mine.

I stayed.

I did not need to stay for my answer had already come to me out of the West in the form of the question soon after sundown of Day Two—and very soon before the thunderstorms began.

To protect the power of my Quest, I will not reveal specifics of the arrival of that question; however, I believe the question belongs to all of us.

Here it is: “Do you love enough?”

My answers have evolved since 1999. In fact, the answer seems to change day to day. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, usually somewhere in between with qualifications.

It has been my experience that my best days occur when the answer is a simple, “Yes.”

Pre-Trauma Love

I am not a psychologist. It seems prudent to remind us of that fact because I hear myself talking as if I were. These are just my opinions.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

Dr. Hart coaches us to remember our pre-trauma selves, to get back to those things that amused us, entertained us, attracted us, and made our lives meaningful and enjoyable. In other words, things we loved.

Good advice, Dr. Hart, but very difficult to do. It seems much easier to remember the trauma than the days before.

Who was I before Vietnam? Even that question is difficult to ask—and even more difficult to answer.

Am I not the person I was? No, but that admission is a big step, perhaps the greatest leap of all. I do not remember, of conscious mind, being any different.

Subconsciously, I do. If I can put myself back into situations I enjoyed with people, places, and things I loved before, I may remember at a feeling level.

Hay barns help, the smell of dried alfalfa and grasses. It takes me back to my youth.

Wrestling helps, being on the mat, coaching. Just being around schools helps. For me, school was a safe and enjoyable place. So, I went back and stayed.

Nothing takes me back to the pre-trauma world like Nature, whether it be hunting, gardening, or just walking in the woods. I accept that this is a feeling memory from the happier me. I know that the smell of tilled earth, wet wood, fallen leaves, or apples from the tree evoke the subconscious memories. But, I believe there is more.

I love the woods. For a reason I do not understand, I feel right, there—at home. I love the sights, sounds, smells, movements, and wholeness of field and forest. I know I belong.

In the woods, I am small but significant. I am one part of a big thing, equal to the tree, deer, squirrel, inchworm, and mosquito. I belong because I am part of it, because I accept it as bigger than me, because…I have been invited. Yes, I feel invited.

I love the woods, but even more importantly, I believe the woods loves me. Without prejudice or judgment of any kind.

In the forest I feel small yet bigger than anywhere else. I hope that makes sense to you. It feels right to me.

Perhaps you see a pitfall, here. People with Post Traumatic Stress symptoms who do not have a pre-trauma place that invites them may have more difficulty finding equilibrium. Well, people without hay barns, gardens, or forests of youth may have trouble reaching their equilibrium even without trauma. I grieve for people who do not feel invited into the woods.

It is not too late. I believe that. I (the not psychologist guy) believe that Nature is here to love all of us whether we meet before or after trauma. Find a teacher, a guide, and go home to Nature. It is in your DNA.

Mother Earth loves every one of us. Isn’t it time you accepted and returned that love?

Quiet Love

There was a thing I loved with no name and another love I knew with no words.

The writer’s task is to use words to express what could never be expressed with words. So I describe the things I lived so that you may feel what I felt.

An electrophile is a substance that seeks electrons. We say such stuff has an affinity (or love) for electrons. Nonmetallic elements are electrophilic, elements such as Chlorine and Oxygen. Fortunately, the universe consists also of metallic substances eager to part with their electrons and compounds are born. Fortunately, also, many electrophiles are willing to share electrons—else there would be no carbon based life.

Similarly, hydrophilic substances have affinity for water, attracting and holding it.

I have an affinity for dirt. I love soil, water, and rocks—and the things that grow in and upon them.

There was a little farm in Dane County, Wisconsin, that called me and I answered. For a few years we got acquainted and fell in love. I used to watch the boats go by on Saturday morning on their way to Lake Koshkonong while I had dirt sticking to the sweat of my body, farming for a hobby.

It was a tired little farm with a ramshackle house but a tidy little barn. And I loved it. But, I never named it.

The day came way, way too soon that I had to let it go. I clung to it as though it was some security, some friend, something special that I could not explain.

Because of divorce, I had to let it go. And, so the day came for the closing.

My dad came and helped me close the holes for the perk test—because the new owner wanted a place for a new house. We stood in the kitchen of the soon-to-be destroyed little house and signed the papers.

My dad watched. He didn’t say anything. He was just there.

I learned something important about love that day—from my father, and from my little farm.

Dad is gone, now, and that little farm looks very different thirty-five years later. Far to the north, though, is another piece of rock, soil, water, and life that has adopted me. This time I had the good sense to name it. When I found a few charred remnants of the old growth trees cut for lumber and stained by fire, I thought of calling in Pine Bones.

The land had a better idea. We call it Lonesome Pines, in honor of the few red and white pines remaining (although more are growing) and the memories of the grandfather trees that once stood there. I love that land, and it loves me. I hope that makes sense to you because I hope you have felt that kind of unconditional love, that acceptance, which Nature provides.

And I hope you have felt or will feel the kind of love my father shared. When my daughters need me, I don’t often have much to say, but I show up. I am there. Thanks, Dad. You always were my greatest teacher, and you did it without me even knowing.

Happy Holidays

Now, before you go all righteous and reactionary on me, take a chance on my sincerity. What I mean is that I wish you happiness all of your holidays throughout your year, and I mean it for each of you regardless of your faith. So, if people take offense at my wishing happiness, well…what happens to the happiness I wished for you?

As a voluntary part of my job, I attend meetings of the AWC/NAU-Yuma Science Club, and at this Monday’s meeting we watched a brief TED Talk video.

The idea is that happiness precedes success.

In 1969 my brand new Cougar wore a front plate with Snoopy wearing a Green Beret and claiming, “Happiness is a Green Beret.” I still have it somewhere.

In 1970 I was sure happiness was that freedom bird landing on American soil.

By 1973, I believed happiness was attainable as soon as I finished my PhD in Genetics.

Okay, so three items in a series can determine a pattern. We have established a cultural norm of believing happiness is attainable through success. It’s kind of like believing health can be attained through diagnosis of disease. You know what? Knowing that I have PTSD does not make me healthy and knowing that I am sad does not make me happy.

Success does not produce happiness of any duration or stability. Happiness produces success. Researchers in Positive Psychology have the evidence.

So, I spent most of the past year describing signs and symptoms of Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and now I am saying that all this work has been wasted?

No. Recognition of a problem is the beginning of solving it; however, if we remain stuck in the symptoms, we never achieve happiness.

What if happiness is not the goal but the cure?

Yes. What if the health of Veterans and their families is not the requirement of happy and productive lives, but the consequence?

“I could be happy if I just wasn’t mad all the time.”

“I could be happy if the VA wasn’t so slow and stupid.”

“I could be happy if politicians weren’t so crooked.”

Another pattern.

Yesterday my wife noticed a halo around the moon and asked me to explain. It seems the sight of a large light ring around a high morning moon made her happy. I think she noticed the halo because she was happy, but that is not the point. Happiness is a dance with reality: sometimes Nature leads and sometimes we do. The important thing is to dance.

Dogs like to dance—figuratively. At least my Yellow Lab loves to interact with Nature. That is why Nancy was fortunate enough to notice the moon. Today she is at the store very early to beat the senior savers on first Wednesday, so the happiness of walking our dog is mine.

What makes you happy? Nothing, really.

Okay, how is it that you are sometimes happy and sometimes not?

If the answer is pointing outside yourself, then you are to blame for giving your happiness away.

The video suggested five daily activities that could generate the happiness that leads to health, wealth, and wisdom. (Yes, I paraphrase creatively.) Gratitude (Write 3 new ones each day.); Journal (1 positive memory each day); Exercise (if only to remind ourselves that behavior matters); Meditation (giving us time dedicated to NOT multitasking); and, Kindness (1 conscious act each day). The speaker, Shawn Achor, claims that 21 consecutive days of practicing these five actions will lead to habits of happiness.

Here is my wish for you today: Take a holiday from unhappiness, negative criticism, cynicism, guilt, shame, sadness, and dread. Try gratitude, memory, exercise, meditation, and kindness for just one day. Okay, try it for seven days and then come back to read my blog next week.

Happy Trails…

Royal Ballet

Each afternoon of late, among the fragrant blooms of the Willow Acacia trees on our little campus, a wonder of Nature dances across our day. Orange and black butterflies flit and fly, casting subtle shadows on the students sitting in the sun, below. I wonder if they know the complexity of the ballet, the theme of the art form above them. I wonder, “Do I?”

Awareness is the key to survival. Are you aware of shadows crossing your path, shadows of birds of prey high in the sky or of delicate butterflies only a few feet overhead? Does the gentle movement in your peripheral vision penetrate your perception? Or, like me, are you sometimes too engrossed in thought?

It is a simple concept, really, Nature as art. If I invented it, I am certainly not the first. Aboriginal cultures always look to their natural world to inform their own lives—a set of metaphors for the rules of human existence. Nature teaches us how the world works.

I have stopped trying to define God. It is not because I am no longer curious or interested. I have just accepted the limitations of my understanding. Instead, I try to learn something of God the artist by studying the art, and that would be Nature.

Birds live in those Willow Acacia trees, the Lantana bushes the butterflies also frequent, and the fruitless mulberry trees, small-fruited fig trees, and both date and fan palms. But, the birds don’t eat the butterflies, the large, bright-orange and black adults flying with apparent disregard for the danger of predation, as though they sense no vulnerability.

Such freedom. How do they get away with that? Are they special? Somehow immune?

They are noble. I actually do not know the species, for they are not all the same and I have not classified them with a reliable key. But, I am close.

There are at least four common types of orange and black butterflies that frequent Yuma: Princess, Viceroy, Queen, and Monarch. Princess is a rather generic term for various species. Most of these butterflies avoid getting eaten, and all of them are orange and black. That is a clue.

We now have a project at Arizona Western College to propagate native milkweed plants to support migrating Monarch butterflies. They actually fly hundreds of miles seasonally—well, not individually, but as a species, for it takes multiple generations to complete one cycle. They must reproduce.

Milkweed is required. Monarch females only lay eggs on milkweed plants, and it doesn’t seem to matter much which species of milkweed. The babies eat the milkweed which contains toxins, but the caterpillars store the poison rather than succumbing to it. Birds that eat the caterpillars are not so fortunate. They get sick. They learn to not eat Monarch caterpillars or butterflies.

I suppose PTSD can be compared to Monarchs. If I am filled with enough poison, people learn to leave me alone. It’s hard on families, though, and I am not immune to my own poison. I am no Monarch, although I may take some lessons from their migration habits.

Remember me telling you that I didn’t know if these butterflies were Monarchs? That’s because Nature has other tricks, and one is mimicry. Other butterfly species that look like Monarchs are also spared by the birds. No, they do not eat milkweed and are not poisonous, but they look toxic.

Hmmm. Maybe I only need to imitate mean, scary people to be left alone.

Somehow, I think the lessons are deeper than that. Whether these butterflies are Viceroys or Monarchs, for I have it narrowed down to those two, they are teaching me something. They are being butterflies—the best butterflies they know how to be—and that is all they are doing.

Being myself, both humble and noble. That is my lesson, today. That is what Nature is teaching me. Be myself, and enjoy the being.