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Emerging into curiosity

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the vision of Butterfly Way many times over this past year. A lot of people I talk to say the same thing, “you know, as you were talking I was thinking of someone I know…” or with a smile, “where were you when I _________.” If you’ve visited our website or are one of the people who I’ve talked to about Butterfly Way, our vision statement will likely sound familiar to you:

Butterfly Way Muskoka is an emerging New Venture that is focused on coming alongside people who have experienced trauma by offering them respite in a supportive loving environment. By incorporating nature, animals, and art-making our goal is to restore calm and help begin the process of healing.

Thanks to our partnerships, with Vox Alliance Church, New Ventures, the Central Canadian District, The Well in Binbrook, and other individual supporters, we’ve taken a giant leap forward with our dream to offer respite to those who need it. Our partners have encouraged our outside-of-the-box ideas and enabled us to take bold steps forward.

Most people I talk to resonate with the vision at a personal level. The questions that typically come next are questions about specifics, “What does supportive respite mean exactly?” "What does Butterfly Way look like?” The more I have tried to answer these questions, the more I feel as though I have lost something in translation. So I want to take a small step back.

Looking back at the beginning of 2022, we were still experiencing different levels of Covid restrictions across the province. It seems like a lifetime ago in some ways, yet just yesterday at the same time. My apprenticeship with New Ventures and what I called The Butterfly Project, morphed into Butterfly Way as a New Venture in the spring. We bought and built three bunkies over the summer. In September we celebrated the two-year anniversary of our move to Utterson. Those are just the highlights! A lot has changed for my family in a very short time! It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear me admit there have been times I have felt just a little disoriented in this process.

I think the key to our vision statement is the word emerging. What does it mean to be an emerging New Venture? Simply put, it means we haven’t figured it all out yet but we’re working on it.

As an emerging New Venture, we have space to see how Butterfly Way can develop without the imposition of a restrictive framework that might not serve as the best scaffolding for what it could become.

Imagine a butterfly whose chrysalis is restricted to a shape of a rectangle rather than a rounded cone. It’s very likely the butterfly would emerge with distorted, misshapen wings and unable to fly. The butterfly would then die before it even had a chance to really live.

The other thing that deserves some attention is how beautiful the process of transformation is. Have you ever seen a chrysalis up close or watched a caterpillar transform? A few summers ago, my daughters and I decided to raise a few monarch butterflies. That summer we ended up raising and releasing 25 monarch butterflies from our backyard in Angus.

I was absolutely amazed by the process. I am still stunned at the beauty in detail, everything from the caterpillar's stripes to their voracious appetites to the gold dots on the chrysalis, even the empty chrysalis! There’s just SO much to marvel at with these tiny, fragile pollinators.

Yet, even in the complexity of everything that transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly, the outcome is fairly simple. Their purpose is straightforward and short-lived! A monarch’s lifespan can be remarkably short, 5 weeks to 8 months.

I think one of the dangers of starting something new is getting lost in future outcomes and thinking there is a way to control those outcomes.

As an artist, I learned a long time ago to let go of my preconceived notions of what the outcome of any given piece of artwork will be. When I sit down at the easel or set up to carve a block for printing, I have an idea of what I would like to do but I no longer begin with the idea the outcome will be exactly like my idea. The idea simply gets me started but it’s taken me a while to come to terms with that.

I recall sitting in drawing class with the task of drawing a self-portrait. It’s extremely difficult - I know what I look like, I see my face in the mirror every day. So unless my drawing looks like me everything else is a fail. Want to take a guess at what happened? No, I did not shock myself when I produced a perfect pencil rendition of my face.

No, in fact, I drew nothing. Not being able to control the outcome paralyzed me. I literally drew a line and erased it 100 times.

Since, I have created countless prints and paintings, with outcomes I have liked and others that I didn’t. All of them ended up being something I hadn’t quite envisioned and each piece of artwork in big and small ways has transformed me through the process.

In terms of art and nature, I am very comfortable with letting go of control over outcomes but in terms of rallying support around a new idea, I realize I need to remind myself Butterfly Way is an idea, we haven’t figured it all out yet but we’re working on it. We can’t know what the outcome will be and the more I try to control that outcome, the less likely it will transform and thrive.

At the risk of displaying the under-painting on my canvas, or the first proof off the press, I want to share with you what Butterfly Way is going to begin 2023 focusing on:

Butterfly Way Muskoka is an emerging New Venture that is focused on coming alongside people who have experienced trauma, in supportive and loving ways.

When people ask, “what does that look like exactly?” I can tell them about a couple of our initiatives like the off-grid cabin we are working on and how Butterfly Way Studio isn’t only a bunkie in the woods but a means to bring the healing impact of art into the community.

Butterfly Way is not (only) a place, it’s a mindset. There are many ways to come alongside those who are hurting in supportive and loving ways. We've only chosen to focus on a few of those ways and in the place where we live.

I would love to change the narrative: “where were you when I _________” to:

“When I experienced ___________ I had a friend who helped by _________. It made all the difference in the world.”

"What does that look like exactly?"

Imagine how a simple act of love and a little support would transform our world!

It looks like that!

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