TLC Book Tours: Flight Behavior

I've been engrossed in Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, Flight Behavior. It’s one of those books that sets your mind whirling in all different directions. There are many hearts to this book, many core stories, and one of the most interesting is the story of the monarch butterfly and it’s migratory pattern. (Yes, this really is a novel, but she manages to sneaks a lot of science in there too, rather like the way your mother used to camoflauge vegetables with cheese sauce or buttered bread crumbs.) The way I understand it is that the monarch butterfly migrates north from a warm climate (like Mexico) and then back again, but because a monarch’s lifespan is only about six weeks,  the complete journey is played out over three generations. The mating occurs in Mexico, and the birth of new butterflies a bit farther north, perhaps Texas. These newborns then fly even farther north to avoid extreme summer heat.  But then, if all goes according to plan, come autumn these brand new butterflies make their way back to Mexico.

Where they’ve never, ever been before.

Something in their DNA - remember, this is the DNA of a butterfly we’re talking about here - tells them when to make this journey and where to fly to get back to the warm Mexican forests where their “family” came from.

Today I’ve been thinking about and marveling over the inner signals in that tiny insect. The impulses that set it on its journey, the integrity of a miniscule GPS system that guides it on it’s way. The compulsion it must feel to fly at just the right time.

And the way it honors that compulsion without thinking.

If an insect can be so firmly guided by it’s genetics, I think, then how much more are we, without even being aware of it, guided by the genetic soup that sloshes in our large and cumbersome bodies. How many of our own impulses, behaviors, desires, are governed by the mysterious and ancient forces of DNA?

I suspect many more than we like to believe.

But unlike the insect - or birds or fish or other mammals - humans so often ignore the signals our inner spirit sends out. We persist in doing things that go against our grain, whether it’s work, or relationships, or ways of dealing with people. When life doesn’t feel just right, we tell ourselves to buck up and get over it.

When instead we should heed those prickling thoughts and allow them guide us to where we should be.

But so often we’re afraid.

For a long time before we moved, I had those prickling thoughts. That the place I was living wasn’t where I was supposed to be anymore. For an even longer time, I had been ignoring them, afraid to migrate, to make a dangerous journey away from everything I knew. Now that I’ve made the trip, I realize the decision was right. I feel peaceful, as if I’m where I belong.

The monarch butterflies in Kingsolver’s story have taken a wrong turn in their migration, things have happened which set them off course and changed the natural progression of their lives. This is mirrored in the book by the circumstances of its heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow, an intelligent young woman who was ready to fly from the foothills of rural Appalachia and onto college when she was derailed by her parents’ deaths and an unplanned pregnancy. She has been at odds with her world ever since, though she has done her best to buck up and get on with it. Something inside her has never felt quite right, and until the butterflies arrived on her mountain, she didn’t know what it was.

Those tiny butterflies live without fear and follow the compulsion that sends them forth, even though in this case it could mean complete extinction. I haven’t finished the book, so I don’t know if Dellarobia will heed their example, or how her story will end if she does.

Change is never without price, movement from one place to another is always fraught with a certain amount of danger. But if you can connect with your inner nature, with the primal forces that make you healthy and whole and alive, I have to believe you’re more likely to migrate successfully.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel.


Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver


They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. How about teaching an old dog to like a new home?

We’ve been trying to acclimate Magic and Molly to their new residence by taking them over for brief periods of time and making it a purely fun occasion. They get treated with snacks of their favorite food (Cesar, which I call the McDonald’s of dog food). They find new squeaky toys hidden in various places. They get to go for walks.

We hope to make every experience in this new place a positive one.

But still, they’re nervous.

Especially Magic, who is the eldest.

In years past, they traveled with us to Florida on several occasions and were wonderful travelers, making themselves at home in any of the various hotels we stopped at along the way, and settling into the Naples house quickly and comfortably. But it’s clear they don’t quite get what’s going on here, why we drive over to this strange place every couple of days, why mom and dad are so eager to make it fun and keep using those high pitched “ain’t this grand” voices (like they use at the vet or the groomer’s).

Even I’m aware that I sound a little desperate, trying to cajole them into liking something just because I like it.

Magic wanders around the house with his plume-like tail dusting the floor, dogging my every step (pun intended) lest I disappear from sight and leave him behind in this weird place. Molly flops down on the chilled tile in the foyer, but persistently raises her head and stares at me with a worried expression, panting slightly for emphasis.

Truth be told, I understand their wariness only too well. How am I going to acclimate myself to all the changes that are about to unfold? As much as I want this and feel like it’s the right move at the right time, there’s no denying it’s an apocalyptic change in our lives. In all the packing and planning, it’s easy enough to forget that so many things will never be the same again. And for someone like me, who thrives on routine and safety and sameness, that’s a frightening concept.

I’ve been wearing my optimism and excitement like a shield, keeping my fears at bay. But somewhere inside me is a skittery old dog who isn’t quite sure what the hell is going on or whether she’s going to like it.

Learning new tricks isn’t always easy. But I do have one advantage over the canine members of my family. I have better recall of times when change has worked to my advantage. I have better recollection of my own abilities to overcome temporary hardship and come out happier on the other side.

I have the ability to reason - and so I understand that one moment of uneasiness or discomfort does not spell the end of the world.

And so we will persevere in our journey of acclimation to things new and different.

And look forward to our just reward in the end.

Brave New Blog World

A few days ago I wrote a post that included this sentence: Change is the lifeblood of the digital age, and regular transfusions are mandatory.

The line referred to recent dramatic changes in the Facebook format, changes which caused an uproar in its community of followers.  But there are some radical, if more subtle, changes in the blog world too and I've been observing them with keen interest.

Here's what I see:

  1. A genre of young lifestyle bloggers who are making blogging a profession, not in terms of generating ad revenue, but in terms of selling their message to the world. They talk about relationship, building your strengths, community, writing. They network voraciously, creating and promoting events.
  2. A group of slightly older bloggers who are using their blog stories not only to connect with a select group of readers, but as a way to expand their professional horizons and develop new career opportunities.
  3. Both groups use social media to the max, posting links throughout the day to their blogs and to other blogs of interest.

When I started my blog in 2006, I quickly connected with a group of women who were writing about their lives, their art, their passions. Blogging was a way to explore and share new avenues of creative expression, whether that was writing, photography, poetry, crafts. It wasn't difficult to find a group of like minded people to learn from and share with. Memes were king in those days, and were a way of spreading the word about your blog to others with similar interests.  Now Facebook and Twitter have usurped that function, allowing you to send links to blog posts over a far-reaching network of people.

My son, who has been blogging in one form or another since 2003, is in the process of "overhauling" his personal blog for the tenth time.  As a corporate webmaster, he knows only too well the importance of keeping things fresh in the digital marketplace. Here at Becca's Byline, I just keep on doing what I do - writing about the intersection of life in general and my own in particular. I'm trying to take some pointers from the young folks. Shorter but more frequent posts seem to be the standard these days, an easy change to adopt. Months ago I purchased my domain name, but haven't been brave enough to switch to a self-hosted sight. I hope to make that happen soon.

Meanwhile, there are so many more opportunities opening up for people who are talented in local search optimization, people who can do local business marketing, or local search marketing.

It's a brave new world out there in cyberspace, and things are always happening to shake it up.

Not so different from life in general, is it?

How about you? Has blogging changed for you since you began? Do you have changes you'd like to make in the way you blog?