The "Butterfly Effect" is the propensity of a system to be sensitive to initial conditions. Such systems over time become unpredictable, this idea gave rise to the notion of a butterfly flapping it's wings in one area of the world, causing a tornado or some such weather event to occur in another remote area of the world.
I am sure you have all heard of the Butterfly Effect and wondered from time to time what effect your actions, no matter how small and insignificant, might have on the world around you.
Well, we have our own unique Butterfly Effect going on here at our house and it is a complete mystery to me and causes me to wonder about other unanswered questions out there in the universe.
My Butterfly Effect doesn’t involve a real butterfly, just an iron one. It doesn’t move its wings or any other part. But it does nonetheless, move— a lot! It is attached to a wall and holds a candle, but the candle does little to illumine me as to this butterfly’s mystery. It has a very real effect on a certain member of our household though.
Let me go back to the beginning and fill you in on some of the details. We have lived in this house for 20 years and the bedrooms have gone through many changes. The hallways and others rooms however, have not. Now that we have an empty nest, the smallest bedroom is a guest room, the middle sized one serves as my studio and the largest one is the master bedroom.
Our house is a front to back, four level split - three bedrooms and bathroom on the 4th (top) level all joined by a little hallway leading to the stairs down to the 3rd level living room, dining room and kitchen. The little hallway is used all the time, every day, each and every day.
As I approached my 50th birthday I had a great desire to pick up an artist’s paintbrush and paint. Before this, I had only held a paintbrush in my hand to apply glue to a project but I liked the feel of it there. I wanted to explore this creative outlet before I turned 50, so I explored one avenue after another and eventually ended up at the local community college in a beginner’s course in Watercolour painting. I absolutely loved it. The paint did its own thing on the paper and when the colours moved and blended with each other I felt like I was watching creation. I wasn’t the artist; I was just the brush holder, standing there while the paint had a party on the paper. It was fabulous. I completed that course, and went back for two more.
I made quite a mess when I painted, so we set up a bedroom as my studio and I would retreat there to get lost in the creative process. I would get so engrossed in one project or another, I would completely lose track of time and forget to eat some days.
During this time I was suffering from deep grief after the death of my father, who suffered a long agonizing death in the hospital. Two years after his death I was faced with the sudden and unexpected death of my mother, on Christmas day. Three months later my five year old niece died unexpectedly, on my mother's birthday. The year following, my favourite aunt died and in that same year I lost a dear dear friend I considered a teacher, adopted mother, and role model.
I no sooner got my feet under me after one major loss, than I was blind sided by another. I felt like I couldn’t get my balance or catch my breath. I was reeling and felt like I was going down, and wouldn’t come back up again. That is when I picked up the paintbrush and got lost in my art. Some days I felt like the pain was flowing down my arm and along the paintbrush onto the paper. I couldn’t think straight, but I could paint and find a release there.
This painting is called Soul Tears. After so much grief and loss I felt like a dark empty shadow in this life, and all the colours of life were behind me. I couln't see them anymore and I felt empty and formless. As I healed, the colours of life eventually started to shine through and make themselves known again.
Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. Twyla Tharp
I found this quote somewhere, and this yellowing scrap on paper in now tacked up on the bulletin board in my studio.
That is exactly what I did. I ran away into my art and lost, but also found, myself there. I gave myself permission to grieve, feel the pain and eventually heal.
I painted for myself, and was amazed when someone wanted to buy one of my paintings. This absolutely blew me away. Something that came out of my pain, spoke to someone else and they wanted to buy it. Actually buy it! I couldn't believe it. I kept painting and eventually worked up the courage to enter a picture in a juried show. How thrilling when it was chosen to hang in a local art gallery exhibit. Something beautiful was coming out of all that pain and I stood in amazement.
My paintings multiplied and I had many pictures framed and stacked in corners all over the house. Every time someone wanted to see one, we would have to dig through the pile on the floor and set selected ones out so we could see them. Not the best way to do it. I got really bold one day, and put everything I had framed, on the walls in my house. Kitchen, living room, bedrooms, hallways, and family room all gave up wall space for my paintings.
Three years ago I fell whilst rollerblading and did major damage to my back: a compression fracture between my shoulder blades. Certain activities still cause me a lot of pain: sitting at my desk or easel being one of them. I can take it for about 10 minute and then I am done. I have to stop what I am doing, put my arms down and rest. After a few minutes the pain eases up thank goodness, but I can’t find a comfortable position in which to paint. Starting and stopping like that doesn’t work too well when painting. I spent more time covering and uncovering paints than I did painting. I am still working on it though and haven’t given up hope. My paints are piled in a corner gathering dust, but I still have projects waiting to be finished and one day they will be. Yes, they will be.
Over the past few years I have sold or given away a number of paintings but haven’t produced any news ones to take their place – yet!!! Each time one of the paintings go, I move stuff around on the numerous pictures hooks all over my walls.
Yes, I am finally getting back to the iron butterfly. It is not my favourite wall hanging, but it is filling space on a wall hook until I find something better. It sticks out about an inch further than the picture did, but only an inch or two at the most.
For some unknown reason this butterfly reaches out and grabs AC every time he walks by it. Morning noon or night I hear a thump and a twang resounding through the house and know that the butterfly effect has stuck again. I am not sure what global catastrophe it is triggering in some far flung corner of the world, but tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and floods seem to be increasing in number all around the world.
AC looks at me, and his eyes beg me to take the blankety blank thing down. 'Save the planet' he seems to be saying to me. I have assured him over and over again that I will move it and do my part to stop major disasters around the world from happening, as soon as I find something else suitable to hang there, or until I can replace it with another painting!! First things first after all!
Well, time has passed and this butterfly effect has become a real joke now. So much so, I hate to change it. We both go into fits of laughter each time the thump twang resounds through the house. I try to tell AC that maybe he is the one hitting it instead of it hitting him, but I can’t convince him of this. Oh those tricksy butterflies what will they do next?
I kind of like this butterfly effect now though, because in our house it causes only ripples of laughter and that is a good thing. I might not ever move that little wall hanging, even when I do paint another picture that could hang in that spot!!