Go Take a Hike

There were fifty butterflies or even a hundred surrounding our sun porch when we arrived. It was hard to enter the house without letting them inside. We were returning from Colorado a few days after my daughter’s memorial service. As the butterflies fluttered around our windows and door all day long they lifted my heart on their delicate wings. Nothing could lift me into full-fledged joy, yet they flooded me with tiny shots of hope and possibility.

© Creativecommonsstockphotos / Dreamstime Stock Photos

They were not quite out-of-season. I’ve seen an occasional butterfly in late October here, but never so many. Today I looked up what to call such a group—a flight, a flutter, a swarm, a rabble (weird, eh?)—but the best name is “kaleidoscope,” because these contained so many kinds and colors.

Summer seems finally to be on its way here in New Mexico after lots of late spring snow. This was stunning on the crabapple blossoms, though many of their fuchsia petals curled when the snow melted. Now that it’s so sweet to be outside, it’s the perfect time for everything from a stroll to a long hike and to look for, maybe ask for, contact, because a common way for our dead beloveds to contact us is through nature, with birds and butterflies being typical. Butterflies can come in December. A single one has accompanied a person in grief on every step of a five-mile hike.

The key to these experiences is what happens inside us when they occur. This often involves an instant knowing. When a ladybug landed and stayed on my friend’s glasses as she hiked, she “knew” this was her mother. It can take a while to learn to trust this knowing, not to dismiss it as our imagination or coincidence.

The first time I got buzzed by a hawk, I was in my purple pajamas on the rooftop of my Oaxaca, Mexico apartment. As the sun rose, my attention was on my daughter. I thought the bird was a pigeon. It was very, very low and nearly directly overhead before I recognized it as a hawk.

Back home, I stood talking, when a shadow raced over us so close I ducked. My friend, facing me, was open-mouthed. “What was that?” I asked. “A hawk,” he replied. Had we ever seen a hawk come so close? This time at least I noted we’d been talking about my daughter. The third time I was swooped in my own front yard, again as I spoke of her. Finally I got that there was a connection. Being swooped by hawks is as rare as a kaleidoscope of butterflies that hovers and flutters all day. We’re not hawk-prey. Hawks swoop mice and bunnies they can eat for supper.

When such out of the ordinary events happen, if we can set our doubts aside and look for resonance, ask what the experience has to tell us, we may receive a grief-relieving dose of reassurance or hope. In my book, The After Death Chronicles, I share stories of contacts made via eagles, geese, hawks, swallows, falcons, butterflies, ladybugs, clouds, rainbows, and a large, unidentifiable insect that flew in and out of a baby’s open grave. Even the direction in which a hawk flew over another gravesite—to the west, where the sun sets—had meaning to the woman’s son and granddaughter.

So, whether we’re on a hike or a stroll or just sitting on the front stoop, we can listen for the voice of the wind, notice the rocks on the ground, how green shoots rise from the soil, watch the birds. If we think we might be receiving contact but are unsure, we can take a hint from some of the interviewees in my book–say thank you anyway. It can’t hurt.

Gratitude is always a gift to those who feel it and it might open up a path to receive a satisfying contact we are sure of. Besides, can anything but good come from being outside in nature? Enjoy.

The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil. To be released October 6, 2017. Watch for pre-ordering in July.

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