by Shannon Schumm, guest columnist

I am a “why” person. Not much holds interest to me unless I have a chance to understand why it is important (shocking that I am in school, right?). I suppose I could apologize to all my professors who could be reading this, but by now…they know. There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in everyday life that held little knowledge for me until I researched it a bit.

Have you ever thought about buying a car, and as you contemplate the specific make and mode over several days, it becomes the only vehicle you see on the road? Commercials, billboards or on I-25; you are inundated with that car. It feels like they are everywhere you turn.

This is the frequency illusion (or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon).  Here is my non-scientific explanation – when you notice something new or of relevance, and it isn’t that it wasn’t there before, it is just that you now notice it. Of all things, over the last few weeks, I have encountered more butterflies in my world than normal.

First, my nature-loving neighbor, is already obsessing about what seeds she will need to attract butterflies in her yard. It should be noted, the first few years she lived in her house she loosely lined her backyard with cardboard and as the wind blew, her cardboard offerings were sent sailing to all her neighbor’s yards. This was to kill off her lawn so she could create a habitat for bees and butterflies. As she rambled about milkweed and marigolds, (my yard’s go-to), I imagined a rabble of winged creatures overtaking our homes, and possibly lifting our other neighbors miniature greyhound (that serenades us at 3 am) to another county. She considered what she can do to promote more shade so the butterflies would have refuge. Her garden obsession had me thinking I am not as considerate in seed sowing. It has taken me years to perfect what “heat tolerant” actually means in my west-facing, egg-frying-on-the-patio of a backyard. I am elated to report I can now grow more than heat stressed dirt.

Next, I received a video from my daughter-in-law of the “grand-girls.” They were in dress up wings shaped like butterflies, so they could delicately fly like freight trains through the house on their snow day.

Finally, in classes the last few weeks, the newness of students and teachers caused a kaleidoscope of butterflies to loom in the halls. This time they were personal. I had sweaty palms, my voice cracked during introductions, and had flutters of nausea swarming my stomach. I remembered when my son started kindergarten, his nerves turned from butterflies to pterodactyls. I resembled that sentiment. The stomach swarm was ever present in Public Speaking, and it was arguably a breeding ground. I am sure Dr. Collins is a sneaky lepidopterist since his class cultivates flight time. The anticipation of speeches waiting to be recited with fearless vim and vigor makes me momentarily consider the short life span of a butterfly. By the way, we can thank Florence Converse for writing, “The House of Prayer” in 1908 where she coined the “butterflies in the stomach” phrase.

All the butterflies lately have me considering their overall fascination, child-like celebration, and what they represent. Where did this worldly obsession come from? They randomly show up in places like a child’s themed birthday party, or the under $100 page of the local tattoo parlor, and they even have an entire museum dedicated to them in Denver. Have humans always been fascinated by the delicate balance of beauty, power, and strength? Do nerves cause us to question our own emotionally rooted entomology? Do we envy their colorful wings so much that it drives us covet the haphazard dance from place to place or flower to flower? Why were butterflies surrounding me so much?

We are taught to swaddle babies in blankets to provide comfort and mimic the womb surrounding them. When the hush of the world is muffled and tucked away. Safety, warmth, and calm are encapsulated in this precious space. As I have grown up, there are other times when I am in denial of my legs. I wrap myself in the coziest blanket to cocoon the world away in hopes the enveloping will protect me from inevitable responsibility. In addition, when anyone in my family is run down, the coveted blanket chrysalis emerges in order to recharge.

Consider what the chrysalis is for a butterfly. It is simply a time of transition. It is when the beginning is one way, and then it emerges as something else. It is able spread its wings and take flight.

This is where the obsession aligns. Isn’t that what we are all doing here in college? Isn’t that what we strive for in life, in relationships, careers, or trying new things? Life is about growing, consuming, achieving in order to be stronger, to become, to soar.  These winged beauties represent change, hope, endurance, and life. They nudge us when downtime is needed so that after, we can be our best selves. They remind us of who are when we start the journey does not represent who we will be when we are done. We are better.

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back with all of you this semester. It felt like every corner held a net to get caught in. Having these butterflies glide in and out of my life the past few weeks reminds me to trust the process. School, family, work, are all parts of the delicate balance in my own metamorphosis. I can’t force anything to be faster or slower, it all just needs to “be”, and to let the gales carry me. Thankfully when I get a little ahead of myself, the butterflies are there, spreading their wings in me as a reminder to enjoy life’s haphazard flight.

              Old Cartoon from Reader’s Digest