A truly remarkable thing happened in our backyard in the city. It started 2-3 weeks ago when I noticed a caterpillar curled up in a ball under our deck railing where I sit and watch the dogs play.
He wasn’t a particularly pretty caterpillar – he wasn’t fuzzy – and he was yellow and black striped with dots. I touched him very lightly to see if he was still alive. At first he didn’t move, but upon my second slight nudge, he uncurled and turned his head toward me.
I left him alone and the next day I noticed the most beautiful worm sack I’ve ever seen. This time of year, we’re used to pulling bagworms – those nasty little bugs that will eat your bushes off of our landscaping.
But this bag was different. It was light green with a little glittery gold braid dotted around the top. Specks of gold were also flecked on different parts of the sack.
I wondered if it was such wonders of nature where ancient people got the idea for jewelry.
Everyday I sat on the steps of our deck, while Emma, Molly and Dakota played and kept an eye for what the little green sack would produce. Although the little bag dangled from a railing, the dogs never seemed to notice and I was satisfied they wouldn’t disturb this little masterpiece.
I did wonder why the caterpillar chose this particular spot. It was subject to the elements – wind anyway – and it seemed pretty venerable to predators.
I was curious, but afraid I would damage or disturb the process, I left it alone. It would have been different had a spider or other natural predator would have come along, I would have accepted it a fate of nature, but I didn’t want to be the cause of ruining whatever would materialize.
Several days ago, the sack began to change. First, it developed what appeared to be dewdrops.
Yesterday it happened. Early in the morning, the sack had changed colors to a darker green and the gold band was less noticeable. By mid-morning, a beautiful monarch butterfly emerged. The winged beauty lit on the remainders of its sack, dripping from its metamorphosis and seemingly gaining his confidence before flying off into the world.
I called for my husband and this time, we left the dogs in the house, afraid they would chase something that flew. We watched him for a long time, took photographs with the digital camera and marveled at the new life form.
The next time I went outside, he was gone, ready to begin his new life as a winged creature, no longer land-bound to inch along railings. For the first time, I touched the sack, which had lost all of its color and was now transparent. It reminded me of one of those facial masks we women do every so often to pull the dirt from our faces.
The experience with the butterfly not only gave me a chance to see up close the marvel of life anew, but also gave me a deeper appreciation for my life and my writing. I’ve been frustrated with the first few chapters of a new manuscript I’m writing. What to leave in/what to leave out? More importantly, what is the point of it all?
My friend the butterfly reminded me that I only have the breath to give to the idea, an idea that may inch along until I find that right spot to curl up and let it gain new life.
When I’m ready to get back to it, hopefully, it will emerge as a beautiful butterfly, ready to take flight in its new form.