I first noticed the butterflies a few weeks ago, while walking my son through the neighborhood. Pushing his stroller along the sidewalk, houses and pavement- our typical scenery, I was struck. In our concrete jungle of a community- butterflies. Painted lady butterflies everywhere. Landing on my shoulder, resting on my bumping stroller and flying overhead. Was I seeing things? Is this a sign? Maybe I’m just paying more attention.
Weeks go by, and they haven’t left. I still see them in droves on my walks, and the cat has left a trail of butterfly wings on the path leading to our front door. I find them tucked into bushes, hiding among autumn leaves and perched silently on my lawn.
I had to know what was happening. With the help of google, I did some research. No- I was not seeing things, there were definitely more butterflies in the Denver area.
As I spent some time uncovering facts and logic about Painted Ladies I discovered what exactly was laying behind this divine miracle. All research led to the changing climate, and nature’s way of adapting to the change. Painted ladies migrate, not surprisingly, from North to South in the fall. In North America, that journey starts in Canada and northern United States during the late summer, and ends in Mexico in the winter. Meaning that they are almost always visible in the fall in Colorado.
They don’t travel in typical straight south patterns, instead following wind currents down to warmer weather. This usually means meandering, winding and sometimes circular paths that eventually land in the south. This year however, they painted ladies are spending abnormal amounts of time in the Colorado area. What is leading to this, is the globally changing climate and extreme weather.
The northwestern hemisphere has been dominated by changing wind patterns- being a direct clue as to what is happening with these winged ladies. It should be no secret that hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have caused incredible damage to our country and continent. So the painted ladies are here now, influenced by the changing winds. While they have surely been impacted, these resilient, beautiful bugs have adapted, and are still as beautiful and magical as before.
They have been creating miracles here. In Colorado, weather radar could pick up so many butterflies- it looked as though large flocks of birth were migrating passed. In reality- it is just these painted ladies- spreading there love and joy across a city that typically only sees them for a couple of weeks at most.
I think about what the butterfly means.
Maybe growth and transformation doesn’t have a clear cut and dry beginning and end. Maybe transformation doesn’t stop when you become a butterfly. Transformation occurs in subtle adaptations to our environment, not just majestic life changing phenomena, like the caterpillar morphing into the butterfly. These butterflies have brought magic and wonder to this city- simply by adapting to a changing climate. They found how to embrace their innate beauty in a previously harsh environment, making where they’re at more beautiful and magical in the process. These butterflies have taught me that we are never done growing and changing. We grow, our environments change in reaction to us and then we grow to adapt and be our best selves. The work is never done. No set of circumstances despite how perfect they may seem, will allow you to be your perfect self. That self is already within you.
“We are already whole, healed and free.”

Sending Love,

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Geography Lesson

Probably a good place to start is where. Any story deserves a setting, a location, a back drop.  I don’t know that desert is necessarily accurate, it doesn’t describe the character that this place truly deserves. Because, it has character that you wouldn’t believe. Trust me, it continues to baffle me, consistently and relentlessly.


The center where this rehabilitation occurs, is nestled in a desert canyon called Rainbow Canyon. Red canyon walls set up an aesthetically attractive enclosure around the center. They overlook the lush green fields, well maintained and assumingly fruitful. A rocky road curves through the canyon, hugging canyon walls and racing next to train tracks. Wild overgrown brush overlaps the road, laden with pools of stagnant water. The canyon is home to a herd of cattle, who sort of meander in and out of fences, taking orders from no one. Wild horses, deer, jack rabbits and cats all take up residency in the canyon. It is basically, everything that you would imagine from a canyon in the desert. Nothing short of beautiful though, if you give it the chance.

                Every day I board a white van, packed with my coworkers and take the trip up through the canyon. The misplaced van bounces awkwardly through the canyon, dodging potholes and the occasional wildlife. We all sit silently, plugged into the prized electronics we cling to. Listening to the music that provides some sort of sanctuary and identity in a place where it is pretty easy to lose track of. I try to appreciate the peace that the canyon provides, before pulling around that last bend to climb the steep driveway up to the center.

                The center is basically a massive log cabin. Some sort of club, ranch or otherwise agriculturally connected building. It’s perched atop a hill and looks down on a long field of emerald green. Similarly painted mobile homes sit on either side of the center, each with its own designated purposes. It’s a beautiful facility, I will give it that credit. Seemingly well maintained, but too much wood. Walls, ceilings and floors are all paneled in wood. Initially the wood feels cozy and classy. But for some reason, it quickly becomes too much. I remember thinking to myself that the walls were beginning to mirror how I was beginning to feel; wooden, hollow and mismatched.

                The character though, comes not from the center. It comes from the city that sits 20 minutes below the center. Being a staff member, I take residency in staff housing in the town of Caliente. This peculiar town has few commodities, but isn’t short on personality. Three mediocre restaurants, a gas station, a small grocery store and a Family Dollar. The population is a little over 1000 and the residents are like nothing I have ever encountered.

                Let me preface this by saying that I am from Denver, CO. Granted, it isn’t a huge dirty city. It isn’t littered with stray cats, crime and crack dealers, but it’s big enough. And it certainly has diversity.  So, to suddenly find myself in a small predominantly white, Mormon town was a culture shock to say the least. Never did I think I would be waking up to roosters. Real roosters. Yelling, early in the morning. Never did I even fathom the idea of ATV’s, dirt bikes, sand buggies and four wheelers being used as actual transportation. Didn’t once imagine watching wild deer hopping over fences and though yards like school children chasing a ball.

                One of the neighbors that lives on my street described it perfectly. An old man, preoccupied with the upkeep of his lawn sits on his front porch smoking on a fragrant pipe. He smiles and waves every day as we pass him, and one day strikes up a conversation from his porch. He tells the story of how he drives back and forth to see his family in Maryland. When I ask him why the long commute, he says, “It’s a slow friendly pace around here. This town has something I think the rest of America forgot about.” He couldn’t be more accurate. As painful as I often find it, it’s humbling and life is pretty simple around here.

The start?

The reason I’m writing this blog is a little bit blurred. I often find myself wondering if I write for myself or because I really want other people to enjoy it. Part of me wants to believe that whoever the audience is, will sit in a warm coffee shop somewhere, with a cup of some fancy pretentious tea and read this blog. Ideally, they will turn to their neighbor; a dark, thoughtful man drinking his black coffee in a ceramic mug. They will note his copy of Kerouac short stories, and think, “I should share this blog with him. Clearly, he’s a man who appreciates intellectually creative pieces.” They will have a conversation, they will attest that this blog thoroughly changed their perspective on life and they will then share this blog with all the people are also interested in things like… blogs.
Truth is, maybe a dozen bored people will stumble upon this. Maybe, most likely, I will know all of them. Truth is, it will probably go mostly unnoticed. And, that’s really just fine. Because truth is, I probably am legitimately writing this for myself. I need some sort of reflection, to remind me I animate in this place called reality. I need reminded that I am actually am a human being. With thoughts, goals and a favorite color.
So, I guess it would be the appropriate time for me tell you who I am and what I’m trying to accomplish, besides reflection, and what I do.
I’m a 21 year old girl. Let’s start there, because all things aside, that’s what I am. I don’t know what that demographic does with their life, so I couldn’t really tell you whether or not I fit into that stereotype. I have been struggling with drug abuse for 9 years, but more recently, heroin addiction for the past 2. In that time, I have been in and out of treatment. Addiction tends to behave like a revolving door in that way.
My recovery has consisted of counselors, coaches, rehabs, meetings and sober living homes. My most recent attempt at sobriety has been the most successful, almost accomplishing that six months that is so sought after. I guess that’s mostly the reasoning behind me writing this blog. I want to share how successful have been recently and I want to defend the treatment center that has given me so many chances at recovering, not just from addiction but from life. I work here now, after completing a 90 day internship period I’m on the other end. I’m that asshole, giving advice on long term sobriety.
I work at Narconon. Which very recently has become the focus of the recovery community. But, for the wrong reasons entirely. Narconon is marketed to its’ potential clients as an alternative to 12 steps. Because, in all honesty that’s what it is. It just also happens to be based on the works of a man named L Ron Hubbard, who also happened to found scientology. In all honesty, that’s about where the two stop being connected. But, a recent scandal portrayed the whole thing a little differently.
So, with that, I am going to do my best to differentiate the two. Maybe with my story, the story of others and a little bit of honesty this will all get resolved. Because Narconon does deserve credit for the things that it does, and the success it manages to bring to people on a regular basis.