One of the first exercises of E Squared by Pam Stout is to notice green cars and yellow butterflies. This exercise is supposed to make you aware that you see what you look for.
During the next 48 hours, I saw several green cars on the road from petite neon green Prius cabs to lumbering army green SUVs. Green is not a particularly popular car color, but yes, once you start looking for green cars, they jump out in front of you. Literally. Like the dark green one that ran a red light, narrowly missed T-boning another car as I watched safe inside my car stopped at the intersection.
When I began the exercise of looking for yellow butterflies, I didn’t anticipate that it would be much of a stretch. I’m a nature girl at heart so I do notice yellow butterflies and green birds and pink clouds. But until I began this focused hunt for yellow butterflies, I didn’t acknowledge their presence. I now find myself greeting every capricious flutter of each yellow visitor. “Hello, yellow butterfly.” These flashes of yellow are everywhere—far more than there are green cars.
Today I took my camera for my morning dog walk, and sure enough, there were plenty of yellow butterflies to acknowledge and greet. One flew over my head, one darted across the street half a block away. When I approached the area covered with lantana on the edge of Scottsdale Bible Church, I readied my camera. My dog Sam stood still while I patiently waited for a yellow butterfly to land. I’ve learned that they are dizzy dancers and don’t often stop long to take a blossom drink. Today this one did, and I was ready to feast on his presence through the lens of my camera.
After I had photographed the little visitor (and the surprise appearance of his brown moth cousin), Sam and I continued our walk. I reflected on the abundant yet sudden appearance of these yellow butterflies today and since I’ve begun the noticing exercise.
As a spiritual director, I help people notice God acting in their lives. During our sessions, they share things from their lives, almost as if they’re emptying their pockets to see what’s there. Then together we sift through the contents to more closely examine moments, to look for and see God’s presence.
From Ignatian spirituality, I’ve learned that God can be found in all things and that God meets us exactly where we are. It can be any moment. Walking the dog, camera in one hand, leash and poop bag in the other.
I love to work with imagery and metaphor—I think in imagery and metaphor!—so today I imagined God’s presence in our lives is like a yellow butterfly. Unexpected. Hard to pin down. Difficult to see unless you’ve slowed down. Especially difficult to see if you’re not looking for it in the first place!
But in the garden of life, who wouldn’t want God and a yellow butterfly to land right where you are?