Butterflies of Mexico and the Day of the Dead

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“If we fly by your side, avoid chasing us away, we are fragile and you may harm us.”

“Si pasamos a un lado tuyo, evita espantarnos, somos fragiles y nos puedes lastimar.”

This beautiful sentence touched my heart while walking through the butterfly enclosure at Xcaret, an enormous ‘eco fun park’ on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, close to the famous beaches of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.

Butterflies hold a special place in the hearts of the Mexican people. In one of the great migrations of the animal kingdom, at the end of October every year, up to a billion orange and black Monarch Butterflies undertake a four thousand kilometre journey from Eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico. They arrive at the Reserva de las Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, (the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve) to begin their five month winter hibernation in the tree tops, some thirty metres above the forest floor in the oak and evergreen trees.

Their arrival in late October coincides with Mexico’s most important national holiday, Dia de los Muertas; the Day of the Dead, on the 2nd of November. According to Mexican folklore, many people believe the butterflies are the souls of their departed relatives who return to be with their families around this special national holiday.

As the name suggests, Day of the Dead celebrations remember and honour the lives of the dead. Mexican families often spend the day picnicking in the cemetery by the gravesites of their loved ones. Sometimes their dead family members’ favourite foods are placed alongside the grave. In the city of Campeche, the government has even granted permission for some families to exhume the bones to allow them to be cleaned before being returned to their burial site.

I love the idea that the cycle of life and death plays an important role in the rich Mexican culture. If you think back to the beautiful butterflies, one of nature’s most evolved insects, their four-stage life cycle; from egg to larvae to cocoon and finally the metamorphosis into a butterfly is an incredible example of nature’s infinite intelligence. Both male and female butterflies die soon after mating, the female once she has laid her eggs, having done what she was placed on this earth to do.

Cricket, Life

Cricket, my children and me.

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Reflections on the summer of 2014/15

The tragic death of Phillip Hughes on November 27th, 2014, was a devastating start to the summer of 2014/15. The twenty-five year old was struck by a bouncer and collapsed during a Sheffield Shield match at my beloved Sydney Cricket Ground. Phillip Hughes failed to regain consciousness and passed away in hospital three days later. As a mother of two cricket obsessed young boys, this horrific fatal accident left me pondering some of life’s big questions.

How do you explain the inexplicable? That sometimes life makes little sense. How do you reconcile the fact that dissecting the vertebral artery as a result of being hit by a cricket ball at the base of the neck is so rare it’s virtually unheard of? People just don’t die playing cricket. And yet it happened to this prodigiously talented boy from the country who fulfilled his dream of wearing the Baggy Green cap and representing Australia. That he died playing a game that doesn’t pose the huge risks of head injuries like some football codes leaves me stumbling for words. (more…)


Are There Toys In Heaven, Mummy?

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‘Are There Toys In Heaven, Mummy?’  is about ways we can talk to children about death and the family members they never got to meet. This piece was first published on on 24th March 2014. “Are there toys in heaven mummy?”, came the question from my four year old in the back seat of the car. While I desperately tried to think quickly how best to answer, his slightly older brother asked, “How about hot chocolate mummy? Do they have hot chocolate in heaven?”. We’ve been talking about heaven a lot lately in our house. These two beautiful little boys have become quite obsessed by the idea of heaven.  At the ages of four-and- a-half and six, they understand enough to know many of the important people in their mummy’s life died before they were born. Read the full story here on iVillage iVillage Logo