Holding my hand up to the sun, I watch as the brightness shines through the leaf I am holding revealing the tiniest pathways of branching veins. I twirl the stem between my fingers and squint while watching the orange leaf dance against the backdrop of the bright blue, mid-day sky. The leaf has a hole in the center. A hole in the shape of a butterfly. I found it that way. A symbol of internal metamorphosis in the midst of the transforming autumn leaf. Change changes us too. I tuck the leaf between the pages of a book I brought along, and continue down the wooded trail towards the sound of flowing water.
Just a week before this backpacking trip, my husband and I were sitting in the back of our last foster parent certification class. We were sitting there eating semi-stale Doritos off of small square napkins and listening to a current foster parent share her stories and experiences over the past several years.
“Let me just say,” the guest speaker concluded, “The first month or so of having a child placed in your home will feel like your life is turned upside down, then you just start doing life with them.” Life with them, the words felt heavier to me than she perhaps intended. How powerful and humbling and hard it is, to allow all of someone into your life, all of them, unconditionally. To allow someone in and then to keep moving forward, it’s a big thing.
We drove home in the cold winter rain and the windshield wipers created a steady tune with the faint muffled noise of radio ads in the background.
“Well that class was more real. What they were talking about at least, seemed pretty honest,” Adam said.
“Yeah,” I agreed as I watched droplets on the car windshield reflecting the red tail lights of cars in the night. “So we could have a kid in a couple months by the time we turn in the last of this stuff,” I felt my stomach tighten at the sound of my own spoken words.
Adam nodded as he adjusted the speed of the windshield wipers. He turned to me and smiled with a little raise of his eyebrows, “Yeah, we could.”
Change can be terrifying. With it can come danger and change itself threatens the comfort of the status quo. But with change, there is usually also light, light that leads to altered, widened perspectives. That is because change, changes us too. It is impossible to step out of a season of change the same person who stepped in, it just doesn’t work that way.
We’ve reached the water’s edge just before dusk to set up camp and I climb up onto a large rock and watch the moving water. The rock feels cold and I can see my breath. Maybe the next time we camp it won’t just be us, I think. Maybe the next time we will be doing life with someone else too. I open my book and the little leaf hops out, caught on a soft breeze. I catch it and hold it up to the sky again. The sun shines through the hole in the leaf, creating a bright little butterfly shape centered in the shadow of the leaf itself. I tuck the leaf back into my book and watch the steady disappearing and reappearing cloud of my breath against the setting sun. I watch as the water just keeps moving forward.