Jess Beyler
January Chrysalis
oil on panel
Dear Friends,

Here's the latest news from my studio:

It is not immediately obvious why the New Year should start in January. The ground is hard, the rivers are locked down tight with ice, the bears, bats, hedgehogs, snakes and possums are all deep in hibernation dreams and nothing is moving.

The caterpillars are working hard though. Here is a quote from http://www.todayifoundout.com/ explaining the transformation process:

In order for the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly to take place within the pupa, the caterpillar begins releasing enzymes that literally digest nearly all of its own body. What’s left inside the chrysalis is mostly just a very nutrient rich soup from which the butterfly will begin to form.

Interestingly, it was thought until very recently that the caterpillar was completely converted to goo, excepting certain special cells necessary to create the butterfly body parts. This idea has recently been debunked with researchers at Georgetown University proving that moths retain at least some of the memories they had when they were caterpillars. For this to be the case, at least some of their memory storing neurons must survive the enzyme digestion process. Further, these neurons must somehow be incorporated into the moth or butterfly’s brain, which is quite a bit larger and more complex than a caterpillar’s brain.

For butterflies, the true beginning is now, in the deep winter, when the old forms have dissolved and the new forms are still in flux. The Tibetans have a word for this: the bardo state.

In the bardo state one has the most freedom to choose something new, but to do a good job of it requires awareness, discrimination and a hefty chunk of ambiguity tolerance. It is mighty tempting to grab onto something, anything, just to escape the anxiety of not knowing and not being able to plan. I admire the caterpillars. They take their own sweet time reorganizing and end up with gorgeous wings.
The quilt I sleep under is stuffed with silk batting; I am literally sleeping in a cocoon each night. I hope this works. I hope the wisdom of butterfly choice sinks into my dreams at night and informs my actions during the day, here in the cold, hidden beginnings of a new cycle.

This painting is part of the Chrysalis Series which is an on-going meditation about the bardo state as part of a transformational cycle. The little cocoon here is caught up in forces and flows that are larger than itself, but which have highly personal implications. Alot of people I know have been feeling that happening lately.

Happy New Year to you all,
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