Butterflies, Dragonflies, Ecospirituality, Haiku, Hummingbirds, Nature’s Symbolism

Spring’s Wings

One of my favorite things about spring is the emergence of fanciful winged creatures—the enchanting dragonfly who metamorphosed after spending two years underwater as a nymph, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail who cocooned on the Magnolia and flutters about the treetops searching for nectar-filled flora, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird whose delicate wings traversed the non-stop flight over the Gulf of Mexico, the myriad of moths that feast on wildflowers, the solitary bee who emerged out of its winter burrow, and the Hummingbird Moth who pupated during winter underneath the leaf litter.

These wonders of nature inspire delight and awe in me. They are also rich with paradoxes: strength in smallness as the hummingbird’s tiny wings fly long distances and hover over a flower beating at 53 times per second. The delicate yet nimble dragonfly—its paper-like wings enabling it to fly upside down and backwards.

I am grateful for the gifts these creatures offer to our ecology. All except the dragonfly are vital pollinators. And dragonflies are equally important as they can eat hundreds of mosquitoes each day.

As we observe the beauty and marvels of these aviators, we can embrace the soulful gifts of inspiration and wisdom for our own journeys. For me they symbolize transformation, hope, spirit, and strength. Most importantly, they remind me to flutter, dance, and hum.

Do you identify with a winged creature? What does it symbolize for you?

You may want to explore its gifts and symbolism through a sketch, collage, or poetic form such as the Haiku (see below). Or simply savor the magical moment when you encounter one.

We can explore the season’s winged creatures through poetry such as the Haiku. This Japanese poem is only three lines with a specific number of syllables for each line (5-7-5, respectively). It also doesn’t rhyme or have a title. I am particularly drawn to the Haiku as its themes are traditionally rooted in nature and the seasons. In fact, the poem usually includes a word (a kigo) that reflects the season. I find that the boundaries of the Haiku offer spaciousness in my expression. And there is poignancy in the brevity.

A Haiku captures a moment much like a snapshot photo. In phrases and fragments we describe what we see. We offer our attention to the natural world and notice what calls out to us. Taking in that moment with our senses, we invite it to inspire our words. In the art of Haiku we express and honor what unfolds before us. 

still for a moment
lacey wings iridescent
dart, dragonfly, grace

There many ways to support and nurture our winged friends:

Hummingbirds: Consider planting native flora that attract hummingbirds or offering hummingbird food in a feeder. Learn more.

Moths: Most moths are nocturnal, so considering reducing the use of exterior lights at night. Learn more.

Butterflies: Plant pollinator-friendly plants and offer water sources in shallow dishes. Learn how to help the endangered Monarch Butterfly.

Dragonflies: Avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides on lawns, which flow into watersheds that dragonfly nymphs inhabit for 1-2 years. Learn more about a dragonfly’s lifecycle.


Flexing Your Wings: Fledglings Take Flight

If you have followed my newsletters or the Soulful Spring Guide, you may have explored nesting as a metaphor for safety, support, and sanctuary.

Nature now tells us that it may be time to fledge the nest.

During the past couple of weeks, I have seen the baby bluebirds in our backyard fledge the safety of their nest. I literally saw them fly out of the bluebird house for their first flight.

This is a rare thing to see. A clue that birds may be fledging soon are observing them peek out of their nesting cavity. They may spend several hours peeking out of the hole in the nest box — with curiosity, wonderment, and fear — before taking flight.

About a week later, Carolina Wrens who were nesting in a roost house on our deck fledged. We were able to witness them getting fed and as they grew, peeking out of their nest with wonderment.

These fledgling birds are courageous…trusting their instincts, trusting that they have the strength to take flight, and trusting that the support they need will be there when they spread their wings.

Feathers found in or near our backyard.

When we humans think about “leaving our nest,” we usually associate that with leaving our family of origin to go off to college, a new job, or whatever life has in store for us at the time. But in actuality, I believe we are “fledglings” many times throughout our life span. . . . anytime you try something new, take a risk, or start a new phase in life.

This “taking flight” may be a change in our external circumstances – getting married, moving, starting school or a new job, starting a new creative venture, or having a child. Or, our fledgling selves may be born of something internal such as newfound wisdom or spiritual searching and growth.

We often begin again, and again, and again.

Regardless of what brings us to a fledgling time in life, we may feel excited, curious, fearful, courageous, or resistant.  These feelings should be expected and fully embraced.

Are you at a fledgling time in your life? If so, it may be helpful to explore these questions with a trusted friend, in a journal, or through artistic expression:

  • What is piquing your curiosity right now? What change may be stirring?
  • Are you in a phase of transition?
  • What support will be there for you when you are ready to “fledge”? What support do you need to seek?
  • Do you trust that you have the inner and outer resources you need to flex your wings?
  • What makes it difficult to trust?
  • How can you offer gentleness and patience to yourself as you flex your wings?
Carolina Wrens just a few days before fledging the nest.

Mind the Spirals

Nature is full of patterns, and spirals are one of my favorites. Spring is a wonderful time to look for and observe spirals in nature as new life emerges and unfurls.

I recently saw this woodland snail venture out after a long rain. What a tiny wonder to marvel at.

Spirals can also be found in seashells, pinecones, sunflowers, and fiddlehead ferns. In plants and flowers, the spiral shape allows them to maximize space and sunlight.

Spirals may symbolize harmony, rhythms and cycles, and expansion and contraction. Offering a unique wisdom, spirals can also inform and inspire our self care practices.

Mindfulness with Spirals

Looking for and observing spirals in nature can be a wonderful mindful practice. These are additional ways to mindfully connect with nature’s spirals:

~ Trace a spiral with your finger onto the palm of your hand…Notice how it feels….

~ Trace a spiral in sand or soil.

~ Be a fiddlehead fern: Use your pointer finger to slowly open (breathing in) and close (breathing out) like a fiddlehead fern. Or, use your whole self to curl up and unfurl as you breathe in and out.

Spiral Art Invitations

You may want to explore spirals further through art making:

~ Draw or paint a spiral. (Cutting along the spiral line will add a kinetic quality and movement.)

~ Arrange nature materials such as shells, leaves, or flowers to create a spiral shape.

~ Create a spiral using clay or salt dough.

~ Write a poem in the form of a spiral.

For Reflection

~ Which spiral in nature do you most identify with?

~ Where may you need to expand or contract?

~ Do you need shelter and stillness as in a snail shell, or growth and unfurling as in a fiddlehead fern?

For Further Exploration

For mathematicians: Spirals and the Fibonacci Ratio

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman (A beautiful picture book.)

“Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.”
~ Julia Margaret Cameron ~