I went for a long walk today in the mountains below the Aiguille du Chardonnet with Rosy, our West Highland Terrier. We walked up in the forest to a plateau, and down again by another path, into more open woodland by the river below. The last time I walked that way, it was summer. The birch copses on the plateau were covered in silvery-green leaves, the path was edged with blueberries and Alpine flowers and the streams leapt between fat green banks. The choucas – those high altitude blackbirds – were nowhere to be seen at this altitude.
The oracle Oeil de Lotus (Lotus Eye) has a card called Transformation. It also has a Death card, so I know this Transformation does not mean death – even though transformations do involve the end of something for something else to take its place. The emphasis of the card, however, is on the transformation, not the ending.
The image shows a target with the design of a labyrinth, with a butterfly at its centre. On a shelf in front of the target, a caterpillar crawls. We have a direct symbol – so well known, we barely register it. Caterpillar –> butterfly = transformation. Caterpillars take on average 7 to 10 days to turn into butterflies in their chrysalis. When we think that for most butterflies, an entire lifespan from the emergence of the caterpillar to the death of the butterfly is about 30 days, 7 to 10 days is a quarter to a third of their lives! A third of life during which they just hang, inactive, transforming.
The butterfly is the most common symbol for transformation in our culture, along with the snake shedding its skin, which also has to stop for the occasion (albeit not so long). But how many of us can give up a third of our active life to focus on transformation without any distractions? Certainly I can’t, and I don’t know many people who have that luxury. Yet transforming is part of life , an essential initiation. Holding back change is not only impossible, it can also cause great misery in and around us. So how to achieve it while going about our daily business? What symbol might better represent a process of transformation in movement?
A labyrinth invites us to walk around its meandering paths. Isn’t it a perfect representation of how we transform – going up blind pathways, turning back, finding an open road, then another blind alley, retracing our steps again, finding a way we think is familiar but is brand new? Until finally, we reach its centre and discover – a butterfly! Without our noticing it, our comings and goings have led us somewhere entirely changed at the centre of ourselves and from that view, everything else is changed. Though we didn’t suspend action for a third of our lives, the motion we created walking the maze in which we live, work and love rewired us entirely.
I climbed up paths covered in flattened snow. I could just make out the whisper of streams under the ice. Choucas had flown below 2000 metres from their high perches, to seek food. It was the same landscape as last summer…yet it wasn’t. The change happened seamlessly, without a pause – and just as easily, in a few months the snow will melt, the streams will thaw, the earth will show brown patches, then green – and finally turn into summer. Winter might return at times before turning another corner into days when the crocuses break the ground. As I reached the plateau and walked past the bare birches, I took a path in the snow that led to a large drift – it was impassable. I had to walk back to the edge of the plateau and find another path. I tried three different ways before finding one that snaked into the forest and down to the valley – Rosy became impatient with me! I finally made it home to find lying on my table – the Oeil de Lotus Transformation card.