2014 is right around the corner and I’ve decided to get a head start on one of my goals. I would like to submit more stories to writing contests. I submitted one in April and now with December’s end near, I am submitting a second story.
I am entering the “1000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars” writing contest, which is a promo for a new book entitled “1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2.”
I’m excited to share my entry which was inspired by a nature prompt from the contest website. Below you can find the prompt and my story.
Describe the most intimate experience you’ve ever had with nature. Try to remember a time in which you were truly affected by the natural world and it became a major part of who you are. If that’s never happened, make it up.
Tears running down my face, I slammed the front door, running down the steps as fast as humanly possibly while holding a bicycle. I had to get out of my house. I had to escape my frustration, anger, and disappointment.
It had been two years since I had graduated from graduate school and I still was unable to find work. The emotions running through me were slowly boiling over and I was reaching my positive outlook limit.
Just before I stormed out of my house, I had received an email: “Dear Lisa-Marie… While your application was strong, we have decided to hire another candidate… We wish you success in your job search.”
Another generic rejection letter. I wasn’t generic when I filled out countless applications. I wasn’t generic when I customized my resume and cover letter for each job. Didn’t I deserve the courtesy of just one non-generic sentence to why I was rejected? Just one sentence to let me know what I could improve upon; that was all I asked.
Tears blurred my eyes, as I hopped on my bicycle ready to release all my frustrations on the pavement. I traversed the streets, with each revolution moving more slowly than the last. I was down and not even a bicycle ride was uplifting my spirits. To this day, I do not know if it was the breeze or muscle memory that coaxed me to cross over the bridge into the state park and down the gravelly dirt path.
I entered the park heavy, stiff, and forehead tight with stress. I left changed.
As I road through the park, I muttered furiously to myself. I told myself I had no skills, I wouldn’t amount to anything, and I would never leave my room at home. In that moment, I felt like a failure and nothing could lift my spirits.
From the corner of my eye I saw something yellow. I knew with my luck it was probably a bee, ready with a sting to put an exclamation point on my misery. To my surprise, it was a butterfly.
The state park is a hidden gem on the side of a busy six lane boulevard, but in the midst of the honking and speeding vehicles, there was a yellow butterfly. A yellow butterfly, modest in comparison to the monarch butterfly; lacking intricate lines, spots, and color. Just a bare pale yellow butterfly, living its life unnoticed by most, fluttering from flower to flower, blending into the sky, indiscernible from the sun’s rays.
For five minutes, I road through the woods, butterfly in tow as my companion. A dull unattractive companion that desired my attention, but I determined to deter advances.
Proving to be a companion who knew how to use its charming personality and youthful spirit to win me over, it circled around my head and torso. With each flap of its wings, it seemed to bring a light oak and pine soaked breeze that traveled up and down my body, caressing my soul, calming my anger, and reminding me of the beauty of life, the beauty of my life.
Like a determined love interest, the butterfly followed me up and down the mini hills, whispering encouragement, sharing its natural yellow to brighten my life, and slowly removing the soot covering my soul.
To my surprise the butterfly boldly sat on my bicycle handle as if to give me a pep talk, staring into my eyes, daring me to look away as I pedaled down the dirt path. Silence. I no longer heard the honking, or smelled the trees, or felt the breeze. I just felt my heart beat speeding up and slowing down, compelling me to open my soul to a seemingly dull companion that was proving to be more intriguing with each passing moment. After 30 seconds of sitting on my bicycle handle and deep spiritual connection, the butterfly flew off never to be seen again, but forever etched into my memory and my soul. The modest yellow butterfly found a way to transform in my eyes to a monarch butterfly.
As it flew off leaving a trail of positive energy, I laughed and I laughed and I laughed, tears dried and happiness filling my body.
The natural world always finds a way of reminding me of the nuances of life. A little over two years ago, I was reminded of the importance of patience. Like the butterfly, I was undergoing a transformation from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly.
Life has a funny way of saying ‘I told you so,’ without uttering a word. August 2011, I met the butterfly, the gentle reminder of patience, February 2012 I found employment, the gentle reminder I had skill, and in August 2013, I began my first day in a PhD program, the gentle reminder I would amount to something.
Yellow butterfly in the sky, I thank you.
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Photo Credit: Virginia Sanderson