Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger
My mind is clogged with words and ideas: news reports and commentary; essays and articles about policing, racism and white privilege; related podcasts and seminars; lists of resources; urgent calls for action. I research the best ways I can help.
When I look up from the computer to try to clear my overstuffed head, feelings of anxiety, anger and powerlessness remain. Increasingly that’s when I turn to artmaking. A couple days ago, shocked and upset after reading stories about new (to me) instances of racial/ethnic violence, I brought my rage and grief to paper. Afterwards I felt more grounded and able to process the information on a deeper level.
Another time when I felt sad, vulnerable and broken-hearted, I drew a little figure feeling that way on the bottom of a page, then let my intuition guide my hand. The resulting drawing surprised me, cheered me, and reminded me to get outside, where I am always nourished by the beauty and resilience of nature.
And how surprising and full of wonder even my suburban area has been! A fawn hiding in the woods in the city park at the end of our street. Otters playing in the pond at that same park. The broken shells of hatched turtle eggs near the nest the mother had dug on the hill above the same pond. A hawk and several songbirds enacting a daily drama as the birds ally to drive the hawk away from his surveillance of the yard, darting at him and chasing him when he flies.
Or a close, persistent inspection by a butterfly. As I sat in the yard writing, a butterfly landed on my journal. She slowly flapped her black wings as she stood there, and I saw they were gorgeous, with patches of iridescent blue on one side, orange spots on the other, a thin line of white along the edges. She furled and unfurled her black tendril-like tongue on the paper, while her antennae bobbed up and down. I had no idea what species of butterfly she was. * As I studied her I thanked her for visiting, and told her she was beautiful. Eventually I stirred and she flew away. But then she returned, this time landing on my bare shin. Puzzled, I asked her what she was looking for, told her I didn’t think I had what she was after, but she was intent and did not seem to answer. After maybe two minutes she flew off. And came back again, alighting on the flip flop I was wearing, then onto my little toe, all the time searching, searching, with her sinuous tongue, wings slowly opening and closing, antennae bobbing. Six or seven times she lit on me, each time staying a full minute and sometimes two, flying off and returning. Finally, from a perch on my little toe she walked across all the toes on that foot, flew off and disappeared.
How are you coping with your anger and grief these past few weeks? Has wonder surprised you lately? Have you ever had a close encounter with a butterfly?
*Later I researched online and discovered she was a red-spotted purple butterfly.