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Posts Tagged ‘monarch caterpillars’

Checking the tomato patch this morning, the darkened Monarch chrysalis was unchanged.

By noon, the same report.

By late afternoon, only an empty husk of a once bejeweled green chrysalis remained.

In the garden, astride a Verbena bonariensis, was a brilliant Monarch butterfly slowly fanning its wings.

By early evening, it was gone.

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Nights are cool, leaves are changing, autumn arrives this evening.

After a hard spring, it was a good summer.  With a focus on soil health,  the garden thrilled as never before.

Flowers blossomed, vegetables and children grew.  As a Monarch butterfly Waystation, our garden enjoyed the summer-long company of Monarchs and a bumper crop of their caterpillars.

Still gathering tomatoes, I unloaded another basket in my kitchen just now.  To my surprise, I found a darkening Monarch chrysalis attached to the side of a fully ripe tomato.  I carefully replaced the tomato in the garden.  Along the siding of the house, I spotted another chrysalis.  With luck, both butterflies will emerge soon to begin their southward migration.

Years ago, a late-blooming Monarch butterfly named Longshot was unable to take to the skies by the time it emerged. Here is hoping these two make it.

Flowers, butterflies and humans – they all have a better chance of emergence when the conditions are right.

I will keep you posted.

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The last butterfly is slowly bobbing up and down on the launch pad, wings drying in a slight breeze.

Of six caterpillars, five survived to attempt the southward trip to Mexico.  Locally, the days, nights, and flowers remain warm – initial conditions could not be better.

There is majesty to these butterflies.  They became what they were not, utterly unaware of the original destiny contained within their caterpillar skins.  Their  metaphor for human transformation is succinct.

But metaphor only.

Beautiful, compelling, inspiring.  While I may dream of being a butterfly, or perhaps they dream of being me – their transformative process is not ours.

Successful metamorphosis is complete, unforgiving, relentlessly onward – archetypal in Nature.

Although we work our lives for creativity, tread both earth and sky, and mature in liminal space – humans are forever cyclical.  Unlike the caterpillar, we ride the arrow of time both ways.

Evolution, revolution – forward, backward, dropping off pieces for the future and going back for more.

The butterflies have gone on. Autumn leaves are falling.  Inward, outward, down to start again.

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Captivated by this caterpillar business.

The scoreboard reads: four monarch caterpillars in chrysalis, one almost there, and one still prowling for milkweed.

Surprise at the utter disappearance of large caterpillars into small, almost gossamer slippers has given way to respect for the implacable stillness of a caterpillar awaiting its event horizon – the moments when its final immature form is shed  for a sheath of chrysalis and future life.

Awaiting that transformation,  a monarch caterpillar hangs upside down from its hind feet,  head rounded  up, looking very much like a “J.”  Formerly robust activity is forgotten, inquisitive tentacles droop.  Though caterpillar form is still present – whatever it was,  is gone.  Interiority.  Lost within itself – literally.

I wonder if eyes still see its passing world. Even without choice, I wonder about courage.

The environment and its larval caterpillar form delivered it to this moment.  The ending of this form, the shedding of its skin will occur within the next 24 hours, and then it too – like Mr. Saturday Night – will be gone.

Birth, life, recognition of outmoded ways, liminal stillness awaiting the numinous.  The life of a caterpillar.

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Mr. Saturday Night is no longer —  I miss him already.

Mr. Saturday Night was an adventurous monarch caterpillar given to escapist feats. Placed in a jar for his own protection against winged predators, he had a penchant for wriggling out air holes and heading on down the highway, or at least the end of the shelf.

Big, striped, and saucy, that boy had a way about him.   Nobody could put down a milkweed leaf like he could.

And he is gone.

Yesterday, after hanging upside down for about a day, he sloughed his skin and disappeared into a jade-green chrysalis about one-third the size of his formerly formidable caterpillar form.

The root meaning of metaphor is to transfer, carry over or across.  Metamorphosis is to change, or transform.  Metamorphosis has always been a florid metaphor for human transformation.

We all know the story of the caterpillar and the chrysalis –  monarch butterflies are beloved for their beauty, their shape-shifting, and their migratory bent.  To me, they represent a life-long interest.  When young myself, I witnessed the same journey I now see again in Mr. Saturday Night and five of his closest friends.

Everyone sees what they will.  After years of troubling divorce and continuing instability, the permanence of the change in Mr. Saturday Night – his reduction to goo,  his sturdy reliance on unshakeable instinct to lead him forward – leave a deep impression on me.

Prior form is utterly gone – we have the shed skin to prove it.  Yet he survives, interior, contained, and changing.  His instinct, our faith,  he needs only to endure and follow his path to the sky.

At their age, my children are saddened by the disappearance of these beautiful caterpillars, they wonder at the change – and wait to see if nature holds good on the promise.  I do too.

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