There’s an old country song that played on the radio the summer I moved from South Dakota to the west. “It never rains in Southern California.” That sounds weird when you come from a state that gets buried in water – albeit frozen – every year for months on end. But after decades here, those words were generally true. Usually, SoCal is a predictable 70-80 degrees, with blue skies and endless sunshine all year ‘round. It’s why countless dreamers with stars in their eyes move here, and why so many of us stay.
Still, over the past few months, the weather has been unpredictable, to say the least. It’s been overcast, grey, unseasonably cool, and we’ve been drenched with record rainfall. The hillsides have slid, becoming unmoored as recent fires consumed the heavy roots holding those hills together. While other areas of the country may laugh at our pain, our already awful traffic has hit a new low, as drivers aren’t prepared or don’t know how to handle the adverse conditions. All in all, it’s been an unusual and unexpected winter in Southern California.
So, a few days ago, we finally got a break. It was our first sunny day in an otherwise grey month. Since I was working from home that afternoon, I decided to spend a few minutes in the backyard. It was windy, but the warm concrete felt good underneath my feet. I laid down on it and looked up towards the sky. That’s when I saw the butterflies.
Now, a butterfly makes you pause. It’s pretty and kind of a rare sight in the city. Heck, we’re lucky to see one a day in L.A. But a thousand butterflies? More? That’s stops you in your tracks. Above my head, endless streams of butterflies stretched farther than I could see, bobbing along on the breeze from east to west. They’d hesitate as the wind stopped them momentarily, suspended in midair as if they were taking a collective breath. Then, as quickly as if it never happened at all, they’d swirl around on some invisible air current and find another way. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
After forty-some-odd years, life is a lot like Southern California. It’s nice and sunny. It’s predictable. No surprises. We take for granted that the weather tomorrow will be as great as it is today. There’s the everyday traffic headache – the stuff that slows us down or gets in our way, that irritates us, leaving us feeling frustrated, lost in a crowd, or absolutely helpless. Still, it’s familiar. We’re all in it together, headed the same direction, and (just maybe) feeling the same way.
Then, something unpredictable happens that startles us out of our reverie, our routine. Confused and unsettled, our roots start to come loose. We may question those truths that have anchored us. We’re not on stable ground anymore. Instead, we’re wobbly, uncertain, wondering which way to go. Progress may seem insurmountable. We aren’t prepared, feeling that we don’t know how to handle the adverse conditions or the possibility that what we wanted before may not be what we need anymore.
I’ve been happy for quite a long time, and am still happy now. I’m grateful for this life, for the blessings I’ve been given and the opportunities I’ve busted my butt to earn. I suck at work-life balance and excel at enjoying the moment, the hunt, and the journey. Still, the unexpected has come calling. I’m unprepared. Thrilled. Not ready, but readier than I ever will be again. I’m unsettled, amazed, and going to leap in both fearfully and fearlessly.
You see, after all of the SoCal rain came the superbloom. Our hills are covered with brilliant wildflowers. Unrestrained. Untamed. Ferocious in their beauty. They dare you to walk among them. And like the wildflowers, opportunity comes when it will. Unexpected. Unplanned. Ferocious in its possibility. It dares you to meet the challenge, to take a chance, to run towards it, embrace it, breathe it in, and become more.
The wildflowers bring the butterflies. The Superbloom brings thousands. They bob and weave, pause suspended, then learn, spin and find a new way. And those butterflies carry a promise with them, leaving wildflowers behind them and helping new ones grow along the way.
We are all butterflies. We dance around on the wind, headed both from and to something amazing. And while our path forward may not always be clear, we become something more resilient, determined, and beautiful after the sun, the storm, and the wind in our way.