butterfly the gratitude project

The Gratitude Project, A Millennial’s Quest to Find Happiness: Day 4 – The Butterfly

butterfly the gratitude project

Butterfly image via Shutterstock

By Maria Russo

Day 4

I am wretchedly tired today, so I apologize in advance if I disappoint you with discombobulated thoughts. The storm last evening caused a turbulent stir within my head, stomach and muscles that my body is slowing releasing with each sip of tea I imbibe.

Ever since I was a child I was deeply drawn to nature. I loved playing with worms, holding dirt between my little fingers, exploring the vast woods behind my home and scooping up fireflies on summer evenings. I can remember finding comfort in the zing-zing-zinging sound of cicadas late at night as it floated through my bedroom window and lulled me to sleep.

Even today I feel empty when I don’t take the time to admire the dainty sparrows, eccentric bluebirds or dancing robins, or when I go for days without sitting amongst a forest filled with green swaying trees and weeds that grow so wild and tall you can only adore their beauty from afar.

During my late twenties, I became acutely aware of how my body felt on a daily basis (the curse of getting older – you think more): tired, energized, bloated, focused, cloudy, stiff, alive… So I began to notice more and more that it could predict when the weather was going to put on a show — perhaps an unexplainable connection between my body and Mother Nature. Before storms, I often get debilitating headaches and sometimes, if it’s a clash of severe hot meeting cooler air (like last night), I feel an annoyingly hot dampness in my body that swirls within my joints all throughout the night leaving me feeling listless in the morning. Most times the headaches and tiredness break with the passing of the storm, but today there must still be clouds hanging somewhere overhead.

So I sit here, among the white walls and soft grey tones of this chic café in NYC, and continue to gulp down cups of warm vanilla and cacao-infused rooibos tea during the early morning hours and ease slowly into the day. The smog, noise and concrete don’t make me feel any better, but a beautiful monarch butterfly skirts around allowing me a glimpse of nature even here through the chaos of Lexington Ave. It’s all I need to feel a prick of excitement.

The little insect is here for summer, my favorite season for one reason only: it’s warm. Most of the year I feel like I am enveloped by a large freezer that can walk, talk and go to the bathroom – there is a constant chill that never leaves my bones. Even when I escape to Asia or Central America during the winter, I often feel like the cold has a serious stalker crush on me as it stealthily creeps up through air conditioners, cool rains, cold pools and icy tile floors.

Being that it is nearing the end of July, I have decided to stop time and sit in this warm, freezer-free moment. I know I am suppose to live mindfully without thoughts of the future, but I often fret when something as precious as summer comes and goes so quickly. I spend most of the winter daydreaming of morning dew, green grass, big glossy leaves, eggs and coffee on my balcony, and one layer of clothing. I live for the beach at dawn; bike rides along the silvery canal; the woody scent of a fired-up grill; and long drawn-out walks (that don’t force your shoulders to stiffen and huddle like you are about to be hit by falling meteors).

Ahh summer…

So very grateful for its existence, and for the delicate little butterfly that fluttered around me while I wrote this piece. I am also so very grateful that with the warmth, we also have water and crops that are thriving due to good growing conditions. It’s almost impossible not to feel spoiled rotten for these blessings when I know there is drought, war, death and floods pervading many regions of the world. Having hopped around this small planet quite a bit, it is sometimes unfathomable to me how such incredible destruction can be taking place on the same ground and roots I share with the rest of the people on this earth. Maybe it’s the Millennial in me, or simply being human, but I often wonder if we were all like that gentle butterfly with no money, land or ego – just wings – perhaps everyone could share in the gratitude and peace that I feel at this very moment just to be alive.


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