Conquering the Dream Killers: Fear, Doubt, Worry, and Guilt

By Mary Ellen Ryall

In November 1998, I attended a lecture in Lusby, MD, during National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. A Piscataway Indian showed us beautiful ancestral cooking pots made of clay and spoke about the different Potomac and Patuxent River clay soils used historically and now to make clay cooking pots. When I asked him where I could learn more about Native American studies, he replied, “They teach it at American University.”  I thought, “Why would I go to a non-Indian school to learn about Native Americans?”

In my youth I lived in Peru where I worked in a cross-cultural learning environment with the Quechua Indians. Learning ethnobotany from indigenous people was my passion, and I considered myself fortunate to have this learning experience in a foreign country.

Reading The Spooner Advocate, a newspaper from Spooner, WI, I learned about the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Hayward, WI, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College. I requested a catalog from the registrar, learned that the college offered plant studies including ethnobotany, and began to ponder the possibility of moving to Wisconsin to attend a tribal college.

It takes time, funds, and patience for a dream to unfold. Being a flea market hound, I started recycling old items and selling them on eBay in 1999. Gaining confidence from this venture, I started an on-line company that sold herbal products and teas. Selling in cyberspace gave me the option of moving the business to Wisconsin.

It may not have been a great money earner, but I could show my husband that I was serious about the move because I was trying to come up with a workable economic solution to empower my dream.

A major obstacle was that I was 53 years old at the time and didn’t drive. Due to childhood trauma of repeatedly riding in a car with a drunken parent, I suffered with a fear of driving, and doubted I could ever learn. My husband patiently taught me, and I gained confidence and eventually overcame my fear of driving. Fear anddoubt are two horsemen that can kill a dream.

When my stepmother-in-law, Dot, suffered a heart attack in 2000 and was living alone in Minong, WI, my husband gave serious thought to my relocating to Wisconsin. I discovered that trust in the Creator removed the spirit-killer called worry. Feeling a sense of guilt about leaving my home and temporarily my husband on the East Coast, I told my husband how I felt; however, he reassured me that it would be all right. Another mind-killer called guilt was overcome, and I made the move in spite of it.

The actual drive across country, 990 miles in 6 days on back roads, was my training ground for learning to drive in snow. My husband led the two vans across the country by walkie-talkie during a blizzard in December 2000. Steadily the storm worsened, and I drove into raging whiteouts and couldn’t even see the road ahead. Ohio and Indiana eventually closed down their highways because snowdrifts covered the roads.

Driving through this stressful and challenging winterscape, I pondered, “Either it will make me stronger, or the trip will kill me. I am going to die trying to follow my dream.” Even when I couldn’t see the way, I focused on my dream. Believing in this vision enabled me to pass through the training of learning to drive in snow.

I was coming to a tribal college. The Catholic educators from my early childhood through high school drilled into me that I was not “college material.” But the most amazing thing happened at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College: I learned that I could both learn and thrive in this nurturing environment.

As an elder student, once taught that I was not college material, I now have a 4.0 GPA.  Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College has the finest professors and caring administrative staff anywhere, and I absolutely love going to school here.

The four horsemen of mind death are fear, doubt, worry, and guilt, and I am a living testimony of overcoming these dream killers. I learned to trust, listen to my heart, and follow my dreams. A way is always provided when one listens to Inner Voice and follows where it leads. I am grateful that I followed my dream to Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College where I have the honor of learning from the Ojibwe people.

Mary Ellen Ryall grew up in Saratoga Springs, NY, and is 59 years old. In 1999, she founded Happy Tonics, an on-line company. After moving to Wisconsin, Mary Ellen graduated in 2003 from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College with certification as a food safety educator from the Woodlands Wisdom Nutrition Project.

A master gardener and herbalist, she gathers and dries herbs for home remedies and teas and wild foods for the table. Her herbal gardens are prolific, and she scatters wild flower and herb seeds in abandoned, logged, and burned-out land sites near her village. The plants can flourish in beauty and also give sustenance to birds and animals. Happy Tonics’ mission is to promote biodiversity and educate about the dangers of genetically engineered crops.

Published by Tribal College Journal, August 15, 2005 and on the Internet at http://www.tribalcollegejournal.org/archives/8298

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This county story starts under a plant – Spooner Advocate: Local: spooner advocate, monarch, mary ellen ryall, shell lake, washburn county

This county story starts under a plant

  • test4Writer and butterfly fan

Photo copyright Frank Zufall

Writer and butterfly fan

Mary Ellen Ryall is surrounded by photos and her journal used to document the emergence of a monarch butterfly in her garden in 2003, which eventually became the story for My Name is Butterfly.

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 8:31 am | Updated: 11:51 am, Thu Dec 22, 2011.

BY FRANK ZUFALL

For those looking for a Christmas gift inspired by a Washburn County story, one idea is My Name is Butterfly, a book written by Mary Ellen Ryall, director of Happy Tonics, the organization behind the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake.

Ryall wrote the story based on personal observations in her Minong garden in 2003.

“I saw this chrysalis under a bean plant, attached to the bottom of the bean leaf,” she said. “I thought, ‘What in heaven’s name is this?'”

She took a photo of the chrysalis and sent it to a friend in Ohio. “She said, ‘Mary-Ellen, do you realize you have a monarch butterfly chrysalis there?'”

From ground level, Ryall studied and observed the chrysalis change to adult butterfly.

“While I was there I had my bottle of water and this notepad,” she said. “I kept wondering, ‘What is she trying to teach me?’ I had no idea why I was having this experience, and I wrote down even about that.”

Ryall said a rabbit had eaten part of the leaf where the chrysalis was anchored, so she constructed a little fence around the bean plant.

“If that rabbit had come back one more day, I wouldn’t even have a chrysalis left.”

When the chrysalis turned dark, Ryall knew the butterfly was about to emerge.

“This is the very first time the butterfly comes out. Her wings were completely wet,” she said, “and I was with her for three hours. That’s how long it takes for a butterfly’s wings to dry out. They try to climb higher and higher to reach the sun, to get their wings dried. They pump fluids from abdomen to wings to do that.”

Ryall recalls the butterfly’s journey toward the sun: “And then the butterfly tried to climb up the bean pole, but the top of the plant had been eaten by the rabbit. She climbed to another plant and she went to a sunflower. She almost fell down. She had to right herself.”

During the climb, Ryall saw the male butterfly fold its wings back to let the underside dry.

“I’ve never seen a shot like that before,” Ryall said about the photograph she took of the butterfly.

“Then he gets up tall on this sunflower, and that’s when he flew away.”

From her Minong garden, Ryall shared her journal observations and photos with Patrick Shields, an English professor at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College.

“He said, ‘Knowing you, that butterfly will be immortal,'” she said.

The journal notes were transformed in what Ryall calls a “creative, non-fiction” story – her experience but with other characters: a young girl and her mother.

Publishing

After the story was written, Ryall looked for a publisher. In a twist of fate, a publisher’s granddaughter volunteered at the Happy Tonics office

“Her grandmother came in one day and said, ‘I heard you wrote a story about a butterfly, about a monarch.’ I said, ‘I did,’ and she said, ‘Can I see it?'”

The publisher was Lindy Casey of Salt of the Earth Press, a small publisher from Northern Wisconsin focusing on books for children, the environment, organic gardening, recipes.

Ryall left Casey alone in the Happy Tonics office with the manuscript while Ryall visited the Shell Lake library.

“When I came back, she said, ‘This is important work. I’m going to publish it.'”

After a deal was struck, Stevie Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza of Las Vegas, Nev., was chosen to illustrate the book.

To help the illustrator, Ryall asked Minong’s Cassie Thompson and her mother, Tanya, to recreate scenes from the story which Ryall photographed.

“I told her [Cassie] to wear a baseball cap and she said, ‘I don’t wear a baseball cap.’ I said, ‘In this story she does wear a baseball cap.'”

Cassie takes on the character Sara Reynolds who goes out to the garden and finds a butterfly egg and then a caterpillar.

In the story, Mom cautions Sara to leave the new life alone and also teaches Sara new terms, like pupae.

“Her mother teaches her [Sara] while the butterfly teaches her the actual life cycle, so it’s the butterfly telling the story, basically, and getting more information from her mother.”

Coloring book

Following My Name is Butterfly, Ryall and a graphic designer from Alexandria, Va. created a publishing house called Butterfly Women Publishing.

The first publishing project, due out this spring for Earth Day, is a coloring book of Monarch butterflies illustrated by Gordon artist Mora McCusker.

“There are so many people I can reach locally. If I want the greater message to get out there, I have to get it published,” said Ryall. “That’s why we created the publishing house, so we could get some of my essays and manuscripts out there. If my life is short and sweet, this will be something of me to leave on this planet.”

Book

My Name is Butterfly is available at Amazon.com or by visiting www.happytonics.org.