Rhythm of Life

DragonflyIt took me a while to discern what the strange, crumpled object, dangling under the windowsill was. As I watched it make small, subtle movements, I realized it was a dragonfly, emerging from a nymph. Hours went by and, each time I went back to look, the contours of the dragonfly became more and more visible.

As I watched it struggle, I felt the urge to give it a hand. But I’ve been taught not to interfere with the emerging butterfly, as it then may emerge crippled. And I’m sure dragonflies are the same. That agonizing long struggle is part of the necessary process, to become the magnificent flying creature it’s encoded to be. So I curbed my impatience.

Several hours later, I was rewarded by the sight of the beautiful, metallic-hued dragonfly crawling up onto the windowsill. It rested for a few minutes, soaking up the heat of the sun. Then it spread its wings and flew away.

Everything knows its tempo. No matter how despairing I am of the garden in February, by the time June comes around, roses are blooming, and the heady scent of lilac, viburnum, and jasmine fills the air. I don’t have to do anything to achieve this transformation except wait and trust.

No one will ever call me a patient person. When I want something, I want it now. The idea of letting go and letting everything take its natural course is totally counter-intuitive for me. And, to be honest, my urge to take things into hand and get them done has served me well in many situations.

There isn’t one right way to live. Our lives are ruled by all kinds of opposing forces. Sometimes it’s good to hurry up and other times it’s better to take things slowly. Sometimes it’s good to be alone and other times it’s good to be among other people. We struggle to find the one right way to live, but I believe that the most natural way to live is to oscillate between all these opposing forces and find a healthy balance in the movement.

Asian thought describes this as Yin and Yang. These days we’re all familiar with this principle. Recently, someone pointed out to me that we have a similar principle in Western thought: that of homeostasis. Opposing forces, like gravity and centrifugal force, keep things in a constant state of oscillation. However, they stay in the right place… just as long as one force doesn’t become stronger than the other.

And so, in the rhythm of our lives, we are constantly coming and going, moving and standing still, patient and impatient. As long as we remain sensitive to the movement and responsive to the opposing movement, we’re in a healthy state of dynamic balance. As we should be.


  1. Mary Lou Gillette

    Your words are so calming, Maddi. I ,too, have been so impatient to hurry things along. I want more blooms for the hummingbirds NOW. I want the milkweed plants to be ready NOW! I love your gentle reminder to enjoy the wait.
    I think I shall join my little Alligator Lizard on the patio and just bask in the warm sun!

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