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Looking for Butterflies


With every gust of wind
the butterfly changes
its place on the willow.
---Basho

On my weekly hikes in a nearby state forest, I find myself looking for what I call "small miracles."  I once spotted a tiny garter snake, with its racing stripes wrapped tightly in coils, sunning itself on a tree leaf... that was my small miracle that day.  I go to the woods to escape the turmoil of life, to empty my head, and yesterday was no exception.

 However, this time it didn't seem to be working for me.  I couldn't escape my spiraling anxieties about family health problems, the teacher-bashing post I had read recently on FaceBook, or  my hyperactive thoughts about my school district's lay-offs.  The mosquitos were biting, and I had forgotten the bug spray. Gracie, my dog, kept trying to drag me off the path to chase birds.   To top it off, I had worn the wrong type of clothing, and I was sweating like a pig.  There was nothing zen-like about this hike...and then, it happened.

Gracie pulled me off the main path to a small side trail, made by deer.  As I struggled against her tugging, I was enveloped in a brilliant cloud of tiny, orange butterflies, rising up from last year's decayed leaves.  It took my breath away.  I have no idea why they were on the forest floor.  I'm not Bill Nye the Science Guy.  They were beautiful.  They were serendipitous.  They were my small miracle.

Teaching is a lot like this for me.  I go along, following the momentum of the day, the week, the month.  My world is filled with students' needs and demands, schedules and meetings that are thrust upon me, and last minute requests from colleagues.  And then it happens...I see the butterflies. 

"Lee" had worked with a reading interventionist for a year and half.  In addition, he and I worked intensely together during reader's workshop.  I had never met an English language learner so earnest, so desperate to succeed.  The day came when he tested at grade level.  As we were walking to the interventionist's room to share his achievement, he turned to me and said, "I'm so proud of me.  I finally did it, and I didn't think I could!" and his eyes were filled with tears.  It took my breath away.  It was beautiful.  It was momentous.  I saw the butterflies in that small moment of my teaching day. 

3 comments

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  2. What a beautiful analogy. I love your blog....so unique...so you!

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