Thursday, September 29, 2011

Signs and Butterflies

Being a "summer" person, it is always hard to leave my favorite season behind and move forward into fall. So after getting my kids on the bus that first week of school, I headed back out to the beaches at Robert Moses for one last moment of peace and tranquility. I had been accustomed to hundreds of people being around, now there were six, and that included me. Everyone was spread out, so it was as if I had the beach to myself. As I sat quietly in my worn beach chair, rusted on the bottom from exposure to sea and salt, I suddenly was surrounded by butterflies! Butterflies? They were big, orange and black ones. I cannot say what kind they were, but they were definitely butterflies. I was in the middle of the beach! Where did they come from?

The first one hovered over my head, and then I watched as it disappeared along the beach. Before long another one came and did the same thing. Then another and another. I know for certain that it wasn't the same butterfly. That particular day I had a lot on my mind and was hoping for some guidance from the other side. Were the butterflies a sign? Were they spirits? I've heard so many people talk about the significance of certain living creatures coming to us, like the Cardinal and the butterflies. Many believe that it is our lost loved ones coming to visit. It prompted me to do some research and ultimately write this blog.

As we all know, butterflies go through an amazing transformation. These various stages of metamorphosis relate very much to our own lives. Our birth is the caterpillar stage, our death is the chrysalis stage, and our resurrection to the afterlife is the butterfly stage. There are many cultures and religions who view the butterfly as a symbol of transformation. Native American Indians are very connected to nature and to animals. They have what are called totems which represent the animals and the meanings behind them. They view the butterfly as a symbol of happiness and change. The Chinese view the butterfly as a symbol for long life, while the Japanese view butterflies as symbols of love, marital bliss and harmony.

Most other countries around the world believe that butterflies are, in fact, departed souls. The butterfly represents the soul's freedom upon death. In ancient Greece, the word for butterfly is "psyche" which means "soul". In modern day it stands for "psychology", the study of the mind. The Greek's believe that butterflies are the souls of people who have passed away. Same thing is true in Russia, where their word for butterflies is "dushuchka" which comes from "dusha" which means "soul". In Mexico there is a small town where Monarch Butterflies migrate to every year. It happens to coincide with a Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead. The town celebrates the butterflies because they believe they're the souls of the deceased returning. Finally, in Ireland, the Irish believe that butterflies "are the souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory".

If you love butterflies, I highly recommend taking a trip to see the new butterfly exhibit at the Long Island Aquarium (formerly Atlantis Marine World) in Riverhead. It's absolutely fantastic!

As for Cardinals, many people believe that these beautiful red birds are also souls who are visiting us. My grandmother was a firm believer of this, and a red Cardinal appeared to her several times after her husband (my grandfather) passed away. Especially symbolic in the Christian religions, the Cardinal symbolizes faith, and is also symbolic of the blood of Christ. So if a Cardinal appears in your window it could be telling you to keep the faith and remind you of Christ's presence in your life. That is also why the Cardinal is seen on Christmas cards and in Christmas displays.

So the next time a butterfly or Cardinal flies your way, take a second look. Maybe it's a connection to a long lost soul, or just maybe it's the answer to something you've been searching for.

Information for this blog was taken from the internet, "Religious and Cultural Symbolism of The Butterfly," "Butterfly Garden Gifts" and "Symbols of the Butterfly."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hurricanes and Ghost Tales

By the time you read this blog, power will have been restored and the internet for me, will be up and running. When I first set out to write this, we were in the midst of Hurricane Irene. We had lost power, and wind and rain swirled around my 1930's colonial, which has withstood more hurricanes than I have. I know there are spirits from the past watching over my home and family, and this gives me comfort. I know this to be true because of the amount of times I've gone into my backyard on a clear night and photographed. I receive dozens of orbs...spirits. They're always here watching over and protecting.

My street is lined with Sycamore trees as old as my house. They've managed to stay standing despite fallen limbs. Power lines lay tangled in the street amongst the debris, while my oldest son complains that he can't play X-box. As for me, I've prepared well, and I'm satisfied with that. Sometimes it's actually nice. No TV, no radio, no phones ringing, no email to check. It brings us back to simpler times, and makes us realize what's truly important. We may not like to survive without these things, but we can.

So how then am I writing this blog without my computer? I am writing it the old fashioned way...with a pad and a pen. I will have to type it in later. It reminds me of my earlier days, fresh out of college, a young journalist hand-writing everything. My page is filled with cross-outs and arrows just like it used to be over twenty years ago. The creative process actively at work.

As I sit in my sunroom and gaze out upon the swaying trees, I recall a night in September of 2003 when Hurricane Isabel hit North Carolina. I was there with my family staying at our friends' B&B in the rural town of Siler City, 250 miles from the Outer Banks. The only other guests, were a mother and her adult daughter and their Border Collie. They were from Kitty Hawk, and their area was getting pounded from the storm. Siler City was hit with strong gusts and heavy rain. Trees fell in the forest around the post and beam country home with its tin roof. You haven't lived until you've listened to rain, and acorns from giant oaks, fall against a tin roof. It is a sound uncommon to most Long Islander's, but it is a sound that will be forever in my mind and heart.

As bad as the storm was, there was something enchanting about the experience we had that day. We made new friends. We shared a bond; we were experiencing something together. As the storm wore on, we eventually lost power. We had plenty of food, water and wine, and we made the most out of our situation. Although the ladies from Kitty Hawk were worried, we helped them to relax a little.

The place was beautiful. Candles shone all around the large open area that was the first floor. A beautiful kitchen, dining area and living room all drenched in candlelight. We sat around the long dining table, which was filled with food, and ate, drank and contemplated life. There was nothing else to do, but talk. It was quite amazing, and we had some of the best, and most thought-provoking conversations I think I'll ever have in my life. It was a time I will never forget, and one I will treasure always.
After we finished our discussion on the meaning of life, and darkness drew deeper upon us, the ladies of Kitty Hawk asked if any of us knew any good ghost stories. I smiled. They had not yet known what I did for a living. More wine was poured, as I began to weave my tales of Revolutionary War Ghosts, Native American Spirits, the lady in white... I told them of the ghosts of old whalers, of old lovers, of shipwreck and of peril. The faces of my captive audience glowed with a golden cast. With eyes wide, they were held spellbound on my every word. It was one of those perfect moment in time, one of which would never have happened if it wasn't for the storm. Sometimes I think these storms are God's way of reminding us to slow down, to simplify and to just "be".

The rain now has stopped in my Huntington home, and the wind is starting to die down as I continue to write. We've opened the windows, and the gentle breeze feels wonderful throughout the house. It has dawned on me that my windows have not been opened since the beginning of June. Because of air conditioning, I have not had fresh air in the house for three months! It's unbelievable, isn't it?

I know we all have a lot of clean-up to do, and we feel like we're inconvenienced, but in the midst of the storm and its aftermath, try to take the time to just "be". Maybe you'll be presently surprised at how wonderful it makes you feel.

Kerriann Flanagan Brosky is the author of Ghosts of Long Island: Stories of the Paranormal, and Ghosts of Long Island II: More Stories of the Paranormal. During Hurricane Irene, she was without power for four days. She enjoyed eating dinner with her family by candlelight, and spent quality time with her kids playing board games.