Okay, Now It’s Getting Ridiculous

002Headed out to my car the other day, past the sunflowers—those great, hulking eight-foot giants (I grossly underestimated their size last time I wrote about them)—and what did I see? A monarch butterfly fluttering on the breeze. But as I fumbled for my phone, the butterfly disappeared before I could get a photo of it. If this seems like déjà vu to you, I can understand why. I’ve written about this before. This is the third time I’ve seen one (or two in one case) in recent months and failed to get a photo. Always I’m on the verge of capturing it. But always it flits away before I’m ready—the little tease. I couldn’t help thinking, Okay, now it’s getting ridiculous. Three times and no photo.

Monarch_In_May

Reminds me of the countless times I’ve driven down a parking lot aisle a half-second before someone behind me pulls out of an awesome space. Grrrr! I’m also reminded of Serendipity, the 2001 John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale movie, where a couple meet cute but keep missing each other years afterward.

serendipitydvdcover

There have been many just-missed-it moments in my life. I also wrote a post about a guy I crushed on in high school who came up to me on the last day of school, suddenly aware that I was alive. Gee, thanks, but I’m cleaning out my locker now and am about to go away forever. I’ve also been first runner-up for jobs. Those are the most frustrating of all, especially when I’m told, “You were our top choice until someone better came along.” Maybe that person didn’t use those exact words, but that was basically the gist. Or, there have been times when I had a free movie ticket, which could only be used after a first-run theatrical release has been out for two weeks. Only, I totally forgot I had the free ticket, which of course expired the day before I suddenly remembered I had a free ticket.

ace08f1esion-ticket

In order to keep my blood pressure steady, I need to believe that the things I just miss or almost get, but don’t, were not meant for me in the first place. This is not an unrealistic, denial-based attitude made purely out of wishful thinking. No, I’ve lived out this truth. Wanna know why I know this is true? Because there have been times when I was at the right place at the right time or was hired because I was the right person or at least had potential. There were times when someone I liked chose not to wait till the last minute but came at just the right time.

So monarch butterflies, go ahead and flit away while I fumble for a shot and miss. At least I had a glimpse of you as you flitted by. You helped me realize that some things were not meant to hold on to forever. Some opportunities need to flit by. But I won’t miss what’s truly meant for me to keep forever.

Movie ticket from yoursourceisopen.com. Monarch photo from Wikipedia.

The Butterfly Effect

If you’re a chaos theory fan, your palate might be set for entirely different fare than what I’m about to present. This is not a post about Edward Lorenz or the effect the flapping of a butterfly’s wings may or may not have on hurricanes or tornadoes. Instead, I want to discuss a butterfly sighting and the effect it had on my life. (Let this be a lesson to you if you’re new to this blog: keep your expectations on a low setting and your phasers set to stun. Sorry. I couldn’t resist using an old Star Trek reference.)

First, call me Multitasking Marie. I flutter from one thing to the next—revising a manuscript; writing curriculum; writing blog posts; watching the behind-the-scenes documentaries of the Harry Potter movies; beta reading; checking email; reading blogs—sometimes within a short window of time. I also fit in a bit of The Sims: FreePlay. Okay, maybe more than a bit. This is my mantra of sorts: Go here. Do this. Now, now, now, now, now

The-Sims-FreePlay

Consequently, I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat, especially when I try to squeeze in too many things at once. But when I headed out to my car to zip off to church Sunday morning (in a hurry as usual), I came to a complete stop. Why, you ask? The sight of two monarch butterflies fluttering around my car.

Monarch_Butterfly_17-03-2006_6-44-40_p.m.

I didn’t take this photo.

I usually see one at a time. Never before had I seen two at once outside of a nature film. I couldn’t grab my phone fast enough to snap a photo. Monarchs flutter fast, like gossamer floating in the breeze. Off they went to the weeds and wildflowers in the field near my car. The scene was so idyllic, it took my breath away.

002

A butterfly-less corner of the weeds and wildflowers. (Remember, I told you I didn’t get the photo of the monarch butterflies.) I can almost picture a zombie lurching through this field, because that’s the way my mind works.

The only thing the scene lacked was a bunny sighting. Oddly enough a friend later that day told me a story about a bunny—one that was hardly idyllic, since it ended in tragedy.

The image of fluttering butterflies usually is a very positive, relaxing image, and it was a contrast to my frantic hustle and bustle. But the fluttering butterflies reminded me of some manuscript feedback I recently received: questions and comments from beta readers like, “I don’t understand what’s going on. Why would he do this? Can you flesh this out?” These comments reminded me that I hadn’t slowed down enough to fully inhabit the scene—to give it enough life so that a reader doesn’t have to ask, “What’s going on here?” Instead of making sure that the character motivation was clear or other physical aspects (i.e., the spatial order of each character) were presented well enough, I fluttered off to another scene, leaving a reader behind with questions. When I reread the scene, and this time really focused on it (something I should have done before handing it to a beta reader), I realized what information I had forgotten to provide to help a reader track the action.

Sometimes a writer needs to trust a reader to figure things out without spoon feeding him or her. But sometimes a writer lands too lightly in a scene and seems too eager to flutter off someplace else—just like a butterfly or a busy multitasker. As in everything else, balance is necessary.

Monarch photo from butterfly-photo.blogspot.com. Sims image from Nokipedia.