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Conversation with a Caterpillar


One of my old bucket list goals was to walk the Appalachian Trail. I hung with that dream for many years, convinced I would find time to spend 5 - 7 months hiking those 2,190 miles. Yes, I briefly considered day hikes, but since I've always stayed in competition with self, day hikes seemed like cheap seats.

So the arithmetic of life has created its' own thru-hike. Codependency, guilt, trauma, loss and failure have strewn my path with opportunities for spiritual growth. I have remained (mostly) willing, and though lessons have lessened in severity, they have kept coming.


I recently stood at what felt like yet another crossroad--do I go this way or that way? What about over there? Or here? Or just stand in the middle of what felt like a mounting, emotionally controlling mess?


Messes have always called me out. Out of doors. Out of houses. Out of buildings. Beneath trees and green where warm sunlight spills through branches onto the backs of butterflies who tend their life cycle perched atop orange milkweed plants. Where chipmunks scamper and hide. Where squirrels dance and play among the tall pines. Nature is where I experience openness to all that feels simple and good. The God of my understanding surely is present there, and I am somehow more teachable while my feet walk on earthen paths.


So back to the messiness. Even after all my years of recovery work, my brain can still tilt into overdrive. So I launched onto a two-mile long dirt trail where the warm air and slow steps could quiet toxic chatter. Toxic chatter is always fear-based; quieting fears allows space for the eyes to see and the heart to appreciate.


And then I saw her.


A caterpillar. The familiar Woolly Bear type that eventually turns into an Isabella Tiger Moth. She was inching across the path in her gut-sliding, undulating, slow motion way. I stopped and crouched beside her, feeling child-like delight. And I heard whispers. Was it just me whispering to me?


"Go little Bear...you are headed towards something so new. You are only part of what you were meant to be. There are more stages for you little one. Just keep on inching."


Little Bear was intent and so paid little attention. She didn't even slow her gut slides. Maybe she just knew what she needed to do. Maybe I did to. Maybe God has a way of shining a caterpillar on our paths, particularly when fear and toxic chatter are trying to control outcomes.


Life is our thru-hike. It shows up messy and full of choices. Recovery creates an avenue for wellness. Not prettiness. Just wellness. Wellness becomes our walk, our work, our duty to our own precious selves. This crazy, stress-filled world calls for all of us to do

our work.