This Butterfly’s Life

Hello Firefans, and Happy Mother’s Day

How are all of you?

It has been a busy, interesting and slightly difficult few months for all of us. We haven’t visited and shared here as much as we would have liked. But I promise you, Lori, Natalie and myself are still here, writing, learning, growing and we all have plenty of things to share.

In fact, when I awoke this morning, I was moved to share something with you. I’ve been feeling a blog post coming on, and waiting for the right insight or epiphany. What do you know? It arrived promptly at 6:00am on Mother’s Day. Like many times before, I sleepily pulled myself out of bed, feeling both blessed and irritated with my desire and ability to bring things out of my head and into the world through writing.

This spring my daughters and I ordered a butterfly hatching kit, similar to this one. Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced this strange and beautiful act of nature, and as each stage has progressed, I’ve been blanketed by a series of quiet, yet profound understandings about a variety of things in my life.

It soon occurred to me that watching these butterflies was so much more than teaching my girls about nature. As a writer of course metaphorical comparisons were falling out of my mind left and right. The growth, the change, the descent and the rising into something new. The periods of stillness and the fluttering and failing and falling and learning. I knew there was something, some bigger message I needed to share about what was happening, and many ways I might relate our butterfly experience. But unsure of specifics I decided to simply enjoy our experience and wait for the Muse to bring me the rest.

And then this morning I just knew.

But then, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Our journey started with the five baby caterpillars, about the size of my fingernail that arrived in a small, self sustaining jar full of food. We watched the caterpillars eat as if they were going to double their size, and then saw them triple in size in just a few days. We learned that caterpillars produce a strange silk webbing that later helps them climb to a safe place to hang in their cocoons. During one particularly grotesque stage, the caterpillars started losing giant, odd shaped chunks of themselves inside the jar. This phenomenon bothered me so deeply and at levels I did not wish to explore, I simply had to not look at them for awhile.

The kidschrysalis had no problem seeing the left-behind chunks, however and one rainy evening my littlest came pattering in excitedly to exclaim that two of the caterpillars had began making their chrysalides. Soon enough, all but one of the five had climbed to the paper covering underneath the lid and had began the (amazingly fast- did you know it takes less than a day?) process of creating the shelter in which she would become a different being entirely. The chrysalides were mostly brown, but interestingly flecked with spots of gold.

A few days later, the first butterfly had emerged. We gathered around to see her. She was about the size of a quarter and clung to the side of the netting with her wings tightly closed. As sunlight came in the window and warmed the room, she revealed the lovely, intricate pattern of black, white and vivid orange on her wings. Slowly over the next few days, the other three butterflies climbed out of their stillness and into their new being.

They were awkward at first, trying to walk around with their new heavy wings, fluttering and falling onto the bottom of the net, landing on the fruit slices, hungry but unsure what to do. They’d flip around for awhile and then have long periods of quiet stillness, their wings tightly closed. They learned quickly, by trial and a lot of lucky mistakes to flutter from side to side of the cage and use their long proboscis to draw nectar and sugar water from the fruit.

Meanwhile the littlest caterpillar, after many days of climbing up and down inside the jar, (as if she just wasn’t quite sure about the whole thing) finally climbed to the bottom of the lid and made herself the tiniest of chrysalides. We gave her a day and moved her into the net with her large, butterfly graduate friends.

In the days that followed we fed the butterflies small slices of fresh fruit and sugar water from a tiny syringe. We had to keep them warm and protect them from danger (i.e., our two cats who were more than a little curious about their arrival.) When we were at home I’d carry the butterflies from room to room with us. I felt a little silly, but it didn’t seem a bother or burden because we were all constantly, quietly drawn to watching them.

butterflyToday, the four butterflies have grown to a wingspan of about 5 inches across- nearly triple (again) their original size. They can fly from one side of the netting to the other, they flick their proboscis readily out to eat as soon as we put the fruit inside the cage, and they have learned to spread their wings wide when in sunlight to absorb heat.

They are ready to fly free.

The weather in our area has pushed the overnight temperatures down into the thirties, and we aren’t supposed to let them go unless the temps stay around 50 and up, so we get to feed, protect and observe them for a few more days. I thought, The day we let them go, I will know what it is I’m supposed to write about. I’ll do it then.

But then I awoke this morning and something occurred to me:

We are butterflies.

We all start out pretty much self-sustained. As adults, we think we know what life is about. We work and eat and travel and do the things we think we are supposed to do. And then something in us changes. We are suddenly hungry for more. We want change.

But, in order to change, we must leave behind giant chunks of ourselves, the ways and the things and the people we were, in search of something better. For some it’s career or money or comfort or approval, for others its things that aren’t so easily given up, like addiction, or bad relationships, or guilt. We have to let those go and it isn’t a pretty process. But we do it anyway.

Some strange primeval instinct in us says we must do it or choose not to survive. And some of us don’t survive.

Our tiniest caterpillar, forever still inside her chrysalis, did not survive. For whatever reasons, she never emerged. She was overcome by the transformation, it was too much for her.

No one ever said a butterfly’s life was easy after all. And some of our friends, the ones whom we place the most hope inside of, are lost to us.

For those of us that find strength to move on, there is unknowing. There is a profound period of stillness, solitude, darkness, internal reflection. And there is waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. And wondering. So much wondering.

But then one day, when it seems the stillness and dark will never retreat, the warmth of the sun beckons. It illuminates things we think we’d like to see, to know. Soon, we can’t stay inside one minute longer and we push forward, climb out into the world to explore ourselves as a creature of an entirely different kind.

We feel different, bigger, more powerful, more real. And we are STARVING. We want to soak up the world and everything in it with this newfound energy. We stumble forward on long, newborn legs into a familiar, yet altered new universe. We don’t know exactly how to do the things we are driven to do, but we do them anyway, awkwardly hoping we happen upon the right way.

And soon, so much sooner than we ever thought possible we are soaring across the landscapes of our lives. It’s as if we were born to fly. Yes, we were in facbutterfly is freet born to fly.

We have wings.

And you know the most beautiful part?

The wings were within us all along.

 

Thanks for reading

~C