The Caterpillar Effect

In a larva mound, a curious caterpillar noticed some of the others in the process of building a cocoon of sorts.  The purpose for such a commitment extended past any terrestrial understanding.

The caterpillar became engrossed in the daily activities that needed to be completed.  Things went on without time to worry about what could be.  Intentions were grounded in what could be seen and reached tangibly.

The caterpillar focused on the climb up the tree, foraging for the next meal, and the descent back down the trunk.

Why should anyone sacrifice what they could actually be doing instead of remaining in a chrysalis?  “Why give up on what I can do now?” the caterpillar pondered.

The caterpillar continued on as normal.  On a climb to the end of a branch, the caterpillar admired a butterfly that danced through the air far beyond the end of the leaves where the caterpillar could see.  On the way down, thoughts surrounded life outside the tree.  “What more could there be out there for me?”  With no answers and an abundance of questions, the caterpillar found contentment in efforts that yielded results as opposed to brood on possibilities.

Along life’s journey, a friendship was struck with an enlightened caterpillar that had lived a full existence.  She knew the end of her life was near.  The sage offered her advice to the curious caterpillar.  “You have to want to be a butterfly so much that you are willing to no longer be a caterpillar.”

For the year in a half that followed graduation, I stayed in my neighborhood with my guide dog Perry.  Each day, we took on the variable challenges a winding route would provide.  I applied for jobs, spoke with friends, nurtured ideas into concepts, and read books.  A friend shook the tree a bit and invited me to attend an ethics workshop for Social Workers.  From that opportunity, I began to seek out more adventures.  There was life beyond the branch I safely traversed.

I loved Social Work so much that I knew I needed to apply those skills even if I may not get paid.  It was June 2015; I had not conceived the idea that I might be unemployed for this long.  If a year passed once more and I had not ventured from what I knew, I would regret the decision to stay safe.

I remained in familiar waters by applying for jobs, writing, and doing small volunteer tasks from time to time.  Wasn’t I supposed to be vigilant about any new position and be the first to apply for an opening?

I offered my services to an organization where two colleagues, whom I hold in high regard, were employed; I committed to volunteer at least once a week.  After all, the organization needed to know they could rely on me.  I worked as hard as they did to allow me to keep up with the sighted Social Workers.  I could not stay away.  I wanted to know more.  I sought to be stronger personally and professionally.

Like a chrysalis, I amerced myself in the environment.  I was no longer content to stay on “the tree” from before volunteering.  Turns out volunteering was a type of cocoon.  What was, morphed into what will be.  Although comfort and temporary happiness were sacrificed, my confidence fluttered with my new, sturdy   wings.

This will be my first full week as a paid Social Worker for an organization dedicated to end domestic violence.  I sense the metamorphosis.  While there was certainty and predictability previous to volunteering full time, I am driven to explore what the world has to bring a life on a wing.  The willingness to sacrifice and remain committed to positive change only makes me stronger.

A Lesson in Physics

His long hair was wiry and never seemed to be tamed by a comb.  Streaks of grey peppered his hair that stood out like a troll doll.  His jet-black beard matched the length of the mop that appeared to defy gravity.  His pressed button down shirts were neatly tucked into his slacks.

Mirrored aviator sunglasses, popular in the late 80s and early 90s, were secured to his face that added to the overall mystery of this white guy who had not once spoken to anyone except a controlled statement of greeting.  He would give a single nod of his head to acknowledge one of us, “Good day.”  He had always passed by the entrance to the dorm without a change in his blank expression.  No one ever met his roommate.

The desk clerk told us his name was Carl.  Carl walked extremely slowly.  Each step was heel to toe precise.   His symmetrical paths on the sidewalk baffled the group of college freshman that lived in Clark Hall at the University of North Texas.

Carl walked with his arms behind his back.  His left hand clasped his right wrist.  The only time his left hand was not attached to his right wrist was the times he used his left hand to open the front door to the residence hall.

Curiosity got the best of me one day and I asked if he wanted to take a seat with us outside.  Carl turned slowly and said, “Most certainly.”

I nervously asked where he lived and he replied.  “You know where I live.  You live down the hall from me,” he spoke in a measured pace.

The group hurled a flurry of questions like there would be no second chance to pose our queries.  Carl was eighteen years old and a Physics student.  I silently wondered if his increased IQ points caused his hair to prematurely gray.  It took me several minutes to connect his physical similarities to Albert Einstein.  With the barrage of intellectual inquiries, I threw out what I really wanted to know.  “Carl, why do you walk so damn slow?”

He turned his head, paused for a few seconds, and stated, “I’m in no hurry.”

Inconceivable! I retorted, “But what if you are late?”

Without a moment of hesitation, “Then I am late.  Hurrying won’t change that fact.”  Carl had brought logic to an irrational battle of wits.    Carl’s stripped down eloquence caused a chain reaction of new possibilities.  In my mind, to be late was bad and to be even “more late” was “badder”.  I was the hare confident in my assumptions.  Carl was the turtle.

For the rest of my freshman year, I observed Carl take his calculated steps and he would occasionally sit with me to drop bombs of provocative reflection and universal truths.  It was the first time I realized I could choose my reaction to events.  I could respond rather than react.

I never saw Carl smile.  Additionally, his sunglasses were always on his face.  He had a stoic peace about him.  Our conversations made a huge impression on me.

Twenty-five years later, Carl’s words and nature remind me to view the world through a different lens.  Solutions do not have to be complicated.  Sage advice can come at any minute by the most unexpected messenger.  Valuing the opportunities to absorb new perspectives only makes me stronger.

 

A Bumbled Perspective –guest blogger Miss Cozette Clark

I have (another) problem.

It’s an amazing blessing to have so many people praying for Beeing Hopeful and donating to help the Women of Hope. A lot of people have been asking me about the bees. Usually I tell them the bee efforts are going well and our current plans for the future. However, now we’ve had a problem and the bees are not good at all. In fact, we are even worse off than when we started.

Our hive is a filthy wreck. The damaged hive led to infestation of termites and wax moths, which meant spoiled honey. It’s no wonder the bees have been testy. We needed to clean the hive so Dad and I hatched a plan. We would take one box and empty it of its honey. Then we could repair and repaint the hive box. After that we’d move on to the next box, transferring the combs from the current box into the refurbished box. From there we could clean out the next hive box and we’d do that for all three boxes. This method worked great on the first box we tried. We took the box to a separate location and set up three large floor fans. We were able to harvest a large amount of honey without getting stung. We set the box aside to wait for the remaining bees to leave then we got right to work and fixed it up. We thought we were doing great, we had honey and a clean hive and we were ready to move on to the brood box. The Langstroth hive (the kind that we have) is made up of wooden boxes and the bottom is called the brood box. This is where the queen lays all the eggs so that the eggs are separated from the honey. So when we were going to transfer the combs, we would also be looking for the queen. We took the clean hive down to where the others were and set up our gear. That’s when everything fell apart. Literally.

The box was filled with propolis, a black sticky substance that the bees make to use as glue. It’s everywhere! We can barely pull out the combs and when we do, they break apart in our hands. It’s easy to see why; termites have made tunnels through the frames themselves. The bees have been trying to keep them together with massive amounts of their black “homemade” glue. The combs were so old, they were almost black, and there are hardly any eggs and no queen to be found. Many of the combs have grown together so she might’ve been in there but there was too much damage already to try and break combs on purpose. We managed to get a few combs into the clean hive but many were destroyed.

I had no idea what to do next. We couldn’t take the combs, even though they had some honey in them, they were too old. We could discard them but we were afraid the bees would starve, because we had taken too much honey already. The only thing we could think of was set the honeycombs in the space between the boxes.

Any beekeeper reading this might cringe but honestly I was grasping at straws and I fully understand that I made the wrong call. We left the box we emptied to wait for the remaining bees to leave and we would come back next week to get the hive to clean it up.

Isn’t it funny how much can happen in seven days? Days seem to get longer everyday, (even though we live on the equator so they don’t) but still weeks are gone in a flash. We went down to check on the bees and to collect the empty hive and what we found almost made me sob.

The bees were gone. Wax moths had built their nests on the comb we left sitting. Wax moths eat and destroy combs by building cocoons of their larvae and burrow tunnels throughout the comb. The mere thought makes me want to puke. Also termites had retaken their territory and their tunnels ran all throughout the hive. The pests drove our suffering colony out for good. I knew that this was always a possibility; I just never thought it actually would happen.

Now that I really think it through, this is mostly my fault. We shouldn’t have left the combs sitting there and we should have moved the hive away from where we knew the termites have built a nest. But maybe this is a blessing in disguise, now we can have a fresh start with a new colony. We can begin at step one instead of step 46.

So what is our step one? We still need to clean out the hives and get rid of the pests (since the writing of the blog post, the wax moths hatched and are crawling all over the hive. It makes my skin crawl to think about it). From there, we’ll move the hives to a new location closer to our house and build stands to prevent termites from climbing into the hive.

Then we have two options. We could wait for swarming season, around March, and hope that bees find our baited hive. Or we could ask to take bees from a fellow beekeeper here where we live, but his bees are even angrier than ours were and we’d have to find the queen. Both options come with pros and cons, we are thinking we’ll do both and see which works best for our hives and us.

With our three boxes, we’ll start three different colonies, which will help with honey production in the early stages. Later on, we can build more boxes to go on top with frames that can fit a honey extractor. Then things go back to business as usual, bees foraging and making honey as we harvest it and create products.

Yes, it is frustrating and I know it’s mostly my fault. I feel like I’ve wasted a gift. A “no longer colonized” hive is just one more thing to worry about on top of the never-ending list. But I am very lucky to be in contact with some successful beekeepers. When I told them my problem, they offered very helpful advice and encouragement. So even though the little head start I had is now gone, I have hope for the future of Beeing Hopeful. Our plans have taken a few steps back, but isn’t that where you get a clearer vision? God hasn’t forgotten us or our bees that have found a new home. And with high expectations for these next few months, I think we’ll go even farther than we ever thought we would.

 

 

Back Seeking Monkey For A Casual Fling

“CHAD!  Did you try smoking one of my cigarettes today?”

My second grader face could not hold back any false pretense.  “Yes, Sir.  It was yucky.  How did you know?” I puzzled out loud.

“You dubbed out an entire cigarette, “ he said with disappointment in his voice.  Earlier in the day, I had taken one of his Winston’s out of the pack, flipped open a Zippo left out, and lit the cigarette.  I choked and gagged.  I left the box of Winston’s out as I returned to my homework and never gave the cigarette a second thought.

Twenty years later, I sat at a party of good friends.  On the table were an assortment of empty beer bottles, an ashtray, a box of Winston’s, and a black Zippo lighter.  I flipped open the lid of the Zippo.  The distinctive sound of the metal case brought back memories.  Zippo fluid has a particular scent.    I opened the box of Winston’s and took in the smell of the tobacco.  Winston always reminded me of the smell of raisins.  The pack was mostly full.  I lit the cigarette and attempted to draw in the smoke.  I had gone twenty-seven years without learning how to bring smoke into my lungs and I had just enough liquid courage to pursue this endeavor.  It turns out to be trickier than it seems.  I had to fool my body’s natural reaction to not allow the foreign cloud of toxins in.  It was quite entertaining to work the cigarettes.  It took eight Winston’s to finally get the correct rhythm to draw, a breath, and not choke.  Impressed with my new ability.  I snuffed out the rest of the cigarette and joined the party in full swing.

Several weeks later, I stopped at a convenience store on the way to a pasture party where my friends would play some blues.  I grabbed a liter of Diet Dr Pepper and headed for the check out area.  I saw the cigarettes behind the counter.  “I’ll take a pack of Winston’s please.” I said for the first time in my life.

“In a box, Hon?” the lady asked.

“Just a pack of Winston’s, thank you.” I stated with a bit of confusion.

“Do you want a soft pack or a box, Honey?” she asked with haste.

I didn’t know the answer because the options didn’t make sense.  I simply wanted a pack of Winston’s.  I thought a “box” was a carton so I said “Soft” with a sheepish tone.

I arrived at a person’s farm.  I opened my Diet Dr Pepper and enjoyed the fizz as it danced on my tongue.  As the group of friends began to spin yarns, they told their stories with the cigarettes like a prop for a play.  The cigarettes added to the story performance.  The orangey red cherry glow would light up with their excitement.  I got lost in watching how they held their cigarette, flicked the ashes in the perfect moment, and flung the mostly finished smokes towards a bucket for the cigarette butts.  Sometimes, they would miss and the cigarette sent sparks of glowing ash.  It mesmerized me.  I had forgotten that my soft pack of Winston’s awaited in my pocket.  I pulled open the packaging and tore away the tin foil.  I dug out my first cigarette and put it to my lips.  I searched my pocket to find I didn’t have a lighter.  One of my friends leaned over and sparked up a plastic lighter.  I awkwardly tried to move the cigarette towards the flame.  I moved the cigarette and some times my head to find the end of the cigarette to the Bic.  It took several attempts before it got lit.

My cigarette kept going out and I had to continue to ask to borrow some fire.  My friend headed off to play.  I asked if I could use his Zippo while he played lead guitar.

I sat on the tailgate of a friend’s truck as they played some good blues.  I got so into the music, I neglected the cigarettes.  There was a little break while the bass player was bout to sing, “The Thrill Is Gone” and I whipped out a Winston.  I struck the Zippo.  The spark released the flames and the aroma of the Zippo fluid filled my senses.  I occasionally took a puff of the cigarette as I marveled at my friend’s tribute to BB King.  After about four or five more songs and many puffs later.  A friend came over and his laughter was genuine.  “Man, I been watching you smoke that cigarette for twenty minutes now.  That sucker ain’t even lit but you smoked it like it was the best smoke.  That was funny!”  I admitted that I didn’t smoke.  “It is obvious!  You gave it hell though!” he said as he slapped my shoulder.

I remember giving my friend back his Zippo and the remainder of the pack.  “Since I smoked a half a pack of your smokes a while ago, take these,” I offered.

A few weeks passed and I left school during my off period.  It had not been a good day to be a teacher who worked with students with emotional disturbances.  I drove around to get a new perspective on life.  I entered a convenience store, grabbed a Diet Dr Pepper, and spotted the cigarettes.  “I’ll take a pack of Winston’s please,” I confidently said.  “Oh, soft, please,” I announced before he had to ask.  I picked up a lighter by the cash register.  I sat in my SUV and exhaled the smoke & my frustrations and I felt like I could finish the day on a more positive note.  On the way home, I saw the pack of Winston’s in the passenger seat.  I wondered what I was thinking by smoking.

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Studies with a focus on addiction, I understood the Cycle of Dependency.  Knowledge is power.  I made the decision that I would stop smoking before it became a problem.  You see, I was smarter than the nicotine.

I invited a monkey to jump on my back and remain there for years to come.  Through horrible illness, freezing temperatures, allergies that came out of nowhere, and even a throat closing reflex that I went to two doctors to seek treatment, I continued to smoke.  The temporary difficulties that “may” have resulted from smoking were out weighed by the “benefits” of my new recreational activity.

I left the brand of cigarettes my father smoked to “enjoy” a healthier brand “with no additives.”  During times of stress, I had to go for a smoke.  In celebration, I had to fire up a square.  When I was bored, I needed a cigarette.  The monkey had taken full residency on my back and all the book smarts helped me in no fashion.  I was stranded in the middle of Addictionville and each road was a deaden.

I no longer smoke.  It wasn’t through the use of self-hypnosis, the gum, or prescriptions.  All had been tried and failed.  I had to just stop and deal with the withdrawal like my father had years previously.

I understand smokers better now.  I do not judge them as weak people.  For whatever reason, they smoke.  It is not a lack of intelligence or strength of character.

The only one to blame was myself.  Truth is I didn’t need a reason to smoke because the monkey on my back deceptively found reasons to need a cigarette.  I am no different than the folks we see and smell smoking in their cars stinking up the area with the horrid stench.  I was one of them.  I am no better than they are.  I found a way that worked for me.  All of us have a capacity to resist temptation and the moral high horse seems to put the judger at a higher elevation to fall from when the boomerang of Karma comes back.

It is in this understanding that I find the human condition.  For one reason or another, things happen due to choices.  It is always “they” or “them” when judgment is cast out.  I remind myself how I was wiser than cigarettes.  I could handle it.  I most certainly was not one of “those” people.  The recognition that we all struggle and need to be more understanding only makes me stronger.