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It's hard work being a caterpillar

Updated: Sep 9, 2019


Photo credit: Liz Frisbee

It’s hard work being a caterpillar

Trusting

Waiting

Writhing

Turning green from the inside out

One day becoming something

Totally new and free

Or instead falling to your death.

Talk about vulnerability.


Two weeks without producing economic value in the traditional sense (earning a paycheck or some sort of income) has been very interesting. After hours of anxiety at my computer, floating back and forth between job searching and doubting and questioning my decisions, I accomplished the task put forth to me by my sister-in-law, Liz, to replenish the fresh milkweed supply for the dozen or so soon-to-be-monarch butterfly caterpillars being raised in their kitchen. I delighted in the activity, from choosing the best looking milkweed from the field behind their house to finding the caterpillars on the old milkweed and transferring them to their new food source. I noticed how they would lightly cling with their numerous little legs to what they knew, the shriveled and drying milkweed, or curl up into a ball when my foreign fingers moved them – and then once they were on the new leaves, quickly reattach themselves and, within a few minutes, start exploring around and munching contentedly once again. Drawn in my their simplicity, I spent 20 minutes lying on my back staring up at two caterpillars that had recently formed a “J-hook” at the top of the caterpillar tent as they prepared for massive transformation – going into a tight, dark chrysalis and eventually emerging as a butterfly. I watched the two caterpillars hanging upside down, their bodies writhing slightly as they waited in process for the next step. I learned later, not having waited long enough to actually see it happen, that their bodies would split open and form around themselves the light green chrysalis that would be their home for the next few days.


Talk about vulnerability, indeed. I had just cleaned up the bottom of the caterpillar tent which held the remnants of a caterpillar that didn’t make it. That, by its own shoddy attachment job or the gentle shaking of a toddler, or perhaps a curious cat, its grip on the ceiling gave way and it splattered to its death.


Do caterpillars experience fear? Do they know how perilous their transformation might be?


“Fearlessness is the open, clear awareness that recognizes the arising and passing of fear without contracting or identifying with it.” – Tara Brach


Maybe the caterpillar that met his or her doom contracted.

Maybe it didn’t, and caterpillars don’t experience fear.

Maybe they sometimes effortlessly glide through their incredible growth and transformation from ground-bound grubs to soaring, flitting, traveling, majestic, colorful, sky-bound beauty.


Maybe that’s what’s available to us humans, too, when we embrace vulnerability and fearlessness.


Those 20 minutes were my most “productive” of the whole week. Forget capitalism. It’s all made up.

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