Tapping away at my keyboard without a window in sight, I become oblivious to the passage of the sun across the sky. The only glimmer of hope lies in the hint of sunlight peeking through the small skylight behind me. So I wander out into the little hallway constructed of 4-foot-high partitions, peer up through the little porthole and there it is – a beautiful sunny day in Rochester, NY. I long to stop and stand there, basking in the refracted rays of the sun, soaking up some of that essential vitamin D. But the rational being in me doesn’t want to look like too much of an idiot and thoughts of a bottle of Copper Tone, a Pina Colada and a beach chair are gone just as quickly as they came. Like a dutiful little drone, I shuffle on back to my own desk, suffered to toiling away in this bleak “Dickensian” environment for another 8-10 hours.
As the workday wears on, daydreams become inevitable and my mind begins to drift away to a day last week when once again the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm – the only difference was that this was the weekend and it belonged to me. I was putzing around in my backyard surrounded by the golden summer sunshine; happily pruning shrubs and pulling weeds in my newly planted butterfly garden. Of course it didn’t take very long for me to get distracted from this work, too. In my own defense, it’s hard not to be distracted when dazzling displays of color are flying all around you. There were actual butterflies in my butterfly garden! I immediately traded in my pruning shears for my macro lens and disappeared into my happy place.
Intently photographing all the little critters that were buzzing and flying around me – big fuzzy bees were lumbering from flower to flower, their legs coated with yellow pollen, gathering as much as possible to join the other drones stashing it away into the hundreds of little octagonal cubicles that make up their hive. They were so focused on their work that they barely noticed me fearlessly getting within a couple inches of them. I hadn’t forgotten about the butterflies; they were just much harder to capture. Flitting around carelessly from flower to flower, opening and closing their gossamer wings, relishing the nectar without a care in the world. No hive to return to, no queen to bow down to, no honey to prepare. Like colorful gypsy caravans, their free-spirits drifting along on the vagabond breeze – the only thing to prepare for is a long winter vacation to a warmer climate.
As far as the flowers were concerned, the bee and butterfly were accomplishing the same task, but their approaches couldn’t be more different. I was struck by the dichotomy of lifestyle in such close proximity. Does the bee ever get jealous of the butterfly? Does he ever wish he could kick the honey habit, channel his inner snowbird and fly south for the winter? And what about the butterfly? Are there any practically minded, homebody butterflies who wish they could just store up some pollen, get a Netflix subscription and tough out the winter at home on the couch instead of traveling thousands of miles on fragile little wings?
Such are the lives of these little creatures – stuck in the one circumstance they are born into. Each performing a specific role, day in and day out. The bee is much like the weekday worker in all of us. Chained to the workaday world and seemingly never ending tasks. The butterfly is the weekend warrior. Dashing from one adventure to the next, spontaneously moving about her day with no plans or commitments. Each one enjoying a simple serendipity; an easy, uncomplicated lifestyle. Innately knowing who they are and what they were born to do.
As I think about them going about their day, haplessly content in their own fragile little kingdom, I realize that the advantage we possess is the power to choose. It is the gift of free will that makes us capable of guiding our own destiny. We possess the freedom to be our own unique selves, to be both a butterfly and a bee and whatever else we choose to be. This is the miracle that makes us – us.