My Butterfly Year

Monarch butterfly with wings together sits on a tree. Photo from right side.

Monarch perched on a young oak tree in Buffalo Bayou (note – this is not the butterfly I saw. the one I saw was on a beautiful Lantana.)

Yesterday, the first wildlife I saw was a butterfly!  Hurray, this means this is finally a butterfly year!

“What in the world are you talking about, Risa?” you might be asking. (Particularly those of you who didn’t know me in college.)

Since I was 25, my relationship with my spirituality has been more than a bit fraught. Before then, I was pretty clear that there was something beautiful going on in the world, and that I, and everyone/everything I knew, was a part of it. And so when I was in high school, on one of my birthdays I was walking out the door to catch a bus when a hummingbird whirred right in front of me, about 2 feet from my face, then whirred closer for about 5 heartbeats before whirring away. It was a really unusual interaction and, me being the tree-hugger I was, I took it to heart. That was my “omen” for my birthday, and I called the rest of that year my hummingbird year.

So began a regular thing I did: first animal or insect life I *interacted* with (that wasn’t a super-common interaction for humans, so no dogs or cats, no pigeons or rats in NYC, no mosquitos/fleas – you get the idea) was the icon for my year. Being at Sarah Lawrence took its toll – one year was a skunk year ;) But otherwise, I had some interesting stuff go on. I had a bear year, a cicada year (ugh!), a raven year… so it went.

After 25 I dropped this innocuous little thing I did because I was losing any kind of faith in a benevolent deity, and while this didn’t really have to do with deities I still connected it to my general “OMG something beautiful and coordinated is going on in the world.” Thus, out it went.

(Imagine a montage here of a LOT of life events. Or maybe just imagine a “calendar fluttering to now” animation – it’d be less painful.)

Recently I’d been bemoaning my lack of creativity and my inability to really connect to the old creative juices I used to have, so I wrote down all the things I used to do to refill my creative well. A lot of them were directly connected to what I used to do when I was flush with the feeling of involvement with something bigger than myself. One of those things was “connecting to my Year omens.”

So I figured – that’s a simple thing to reconnect with.

And additionally, I was kinda curious. Close to Buffalo Bayou there is a ton of wildlife to interact with. Lizards, grackles, mockingbirds, Muscovy ducks, and dragonflies are common as one wanders around here, and we’ve seen turtles, mourning doves, rabbits, snakes and gray and white cranes as well. The butterflies are hardly uncommon, but I’m semi-surprised I saw that Monarch before I saw a lizard, duck or grackle. It’s also kind of lovely synchronicity, because one of Jon’s co-workers got me a pretty kalanchoe plant as a “Get Well Soon” gift, and the motif on the pot?

It’s a butterfly. :)

A pale yellow metal pot with a butterfly cutout

Pale yellow scalloped pot with butterfly cutout

So hurrah, butterfly year!

Goodbye 2015

Two tiny tree ornaments showing Bugs & Sylvester on our tree in christmas hats

A tiny Bugs & Sylvester on our tree

I really love holidays that feature thresholds: equinoxes, Halloween, and especially New Year’s Eve*.  For New Year’s, people are encouraged to take the opportunity to look both backwards and forwards, and to make conscious decisions about what you want the coming span of time to be like.

Looking backwards, I can see the ups and downs our family went through. We lost a beloved animal family member and gained a beloved animal family member. We had a horrific move-out from a ‘luxury’ apartment where nothing worked, but the transition to a smaller, more economical apartment (where we have control of the thermostat and everything works) has been terrific. We’re both still struggling with chronic pain for varying reasons, but we’ve been getting healthier because of Kizu’s boundless energy.

We are also grateful because both our families had major health issues last year, but are all doing much better this year. *big thumbs up*

In general, I can look back on this year and be happy with the progress we made, while honoring the struggle it took to get to the good points.

We miss you, Theo. We love you, our amazing family and friends. To all others, I wish for you the best of everything for this next go round the Sun.

*Since I am neither Jewish nor Chinese, the big New Year’s transition that I choose is in January. I want to mention this because I don’t see the same posts about New Year’s from my Jewish or Chinese friends during their holidays, and I’m aware of my Western-normative internet experience.

Hello 2015

nye2014It was an amazing evening of kick-ass prosecco and Flying Dog beer, repeated viewings of Uptown Funk (hurrah Bruno Mars!), fresh kielbasa grilled on our cast-iron grill, a rewatch of some White Collar episodes, and a bit of John Oliver to mix things up.

We watched a live stream from CUBA.
What a world we live in. Things happen so fast.

OAR playing John Lennon’s Imagine. A song from my early childhood, still regarded as relevant. Can someone make a song out of some Martin Luther King Jr speeches? Dr Dre? Beyonce? I’d like to hear those two together.

Oh my dear world. I love you madly. Happy baby 2015. Janus, thank you for a lovely step over the threshold.

Goodbye 2014

I am ending out this year with an obnoxious cold, whose symptoms came upon me so suddenly that my voice changed an octave in the course of 15 minutes – seriously, we were at the gourmet grocery store down on Broadway, and I was fine in aisle 2 … then BAM froggy by aisle 6.

It’s kind of appropriate. Last year I ended out the year with a rather large, dramatic cut in my face, right on my lip. It looked like a disfiguring wound. Yet within the first month of 2014, the cut faded into a thin shiny scar, barely noticeable. By the wedding I couldn’t see it at all but could feel it sometimes, and now I can only feel the tiny bit of scar tissue if I pucker my lips and run my finger over it.

I’m not one to do resolutions, or to choose a single word or phrase for the year, but it was such a big thing that it became my metaphor for the year – Brutally Rapid Transitions.

BOOM you’re having issues! BOOM that’s done or as far as it can go – next issue coming up! (For better or for worse.)

Name change, from”OMG WHAT DO I DO” crisis to done in a month.

Job role changing from a small aspect in a 10K-employee company to a crucial factor in a 25-employee company.

Way too many family members having major health crises – the list is truly insane. Some sad losses. Some relieving resolutions. A few major surgeries.

Having stupid wedding crisis after stupid wedding crisis in the three weeks leading up to the event, breaking down into inconsolable tears 3 hours before the ceremony, and then the wedding itself ROCKED.

It’s odd looking back on pictures of Amelia in April and remembering that she seemed so healthy and ready to make it to 17, then started having issues walking in May (which we can see in the engagement photos), then by the time June rolled around things were obviously not going well. While her illness wasn’t rapid by any stretch of the imagination, going from “of course our dog will be in our wedding somehow” to “we are caring for a critically ill animal while also planning a wedding” in the course of a few weeks was pretty rough.

Then Breeshey nearly died… and recovered within two weeks. During the same time we were caring for Amelia.

….yeah. It’s exhausting me just to THINK about it.

But we did it, Jon and I. We went through all of this side by side, with only a few emotional hiccups, all of which resolved in such a way that brought us closer. Neither of us would have handled the individual parts of this as well as we did together, and we still managed to pull off a kick-ass wedding.

And here I am, itchy sinuses and runny nose, soothing it with a cup of tea that Jon made for me.

*happyheartflip*

So bye, 2014, and thanks for the lessons. It would have been nice if you’d been easier on family and friends, but hey, we did okay given the circumstances.

(Janus, can we, um, go for something a little gentler as we step over this threshold? Something more productive? Some encompassment for a change? That’d be nice. Thanks.)