A few days ago, I was saddened to see this sign tacked to a tree on my street. I remembered when those vividly colored solar butterflies appeared on the block, ready to flutter their wings in a shaft of sunlight. I thought it was very sweet that a young woman renting a street-level apartment had decided to brighten the sidewalk in front of her building, and hoped that passers-by would respect her gift.
The theft of the solar butterflies made me think about theft of soul. In Greek, the word psyche means both "butterfly" and "soul". In many cultures, butterflies are a metaphor for soul, and for growing soul, because of their amazing life cycle of metamorphosis. They go through four stages, in each of which they appear entirely different. They are born inside eggs. They emerge as caterpillars (or larvae) shedding their skins several times as they get bigger. Then they produce their own crucible of transforming: the chrysalis, inside which their tissues break down and they liquefy, on the way to emerging in a new form, ready to fly. Talk about earning your wings!
This morning, the J'accuse was gone from the tree. It seems to have done the trick; the solar butterflies are back on their posts.
The homecoming of the solar butterflies is a happy reminder that while pieces of soul can be lost or stolen in any life on the planet, soul can also be returned. Sometimes that requires us to recognize what we have lost, and speak our truth. Sometimes it requires us to take inventory of the souls we may have taken; for example, by holding on to a part of someone with whom we once shared a relationship.
The sun is coming out from behind the clouds. I want to see those wings flutter and shine.