My husband and I came across an unusual find in the garden recently. A monarch caterpillar. He was so striking we had to run and get the camera.
Caterpillars are such amazing creatures. They are the larvae of butterflies. As larvae, their main job is to eat and eat and eat. Hmm, sounds like an interesting job description!
After they’ve finally eaten their fill, the caterpillar will search for the right spot, anchor itself, and create a chrysalis. Here is where things get really interesting.
I’m a fan of O Magazine’s Martha Beck and she wrote an article called Growing Wings about what goes on inside a chrysalis. She described how if we looked inside a chrysalis we might expect to see a caterpillar that goes through some linear process of becoming a butterfly. But that’s not the case. What happens instead is that the caterpillar sheds its outer skin and becomes a sort of “bug soup.”
I should probably talk a little quieter. I think I’m causing the poor fella to get a little distressed.
Beck says, “in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature—the angel of the dead caterpillar.”
The process from which caterpillars become butterflies is called metamorphosis, a wonderful metaphor for our more human experience. The problem can be that as humans we tend to be a little more linear. We see the butterfly eggs, the larvae (caterpillar), the cocoon, and then the butterfly. A linear progression of neatly unfolding events.
As a result, we sometimes expect the same things in our own lives. However, Martha Beck reminds us that the butterfly-making process is more like the sausage-making process. It’s not for the faint at heart.
Sometimes we find our lives embroiled in our own bug soup. Digressions from the linear progressions of our own expectations, otherwise known as personal setbacks. Some of this change can be so profound we begin to lose the sense of our own identity.
Martha encourages us to hold on. Her article gives ideas to help foster your life’s bug soup into a time of transformation. Just like this little guy is about to go through.
Caterpillars make marvelous metaphors, and it helps that they’re so photogenic too.