Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Don't Kill the Caterpillars

I'm watching the butterflies dine on the lantana.  Big black ones with yellow markings, bigger orange ones with black markings, the gigantic yellow ones that create their own jet stream as they fly past my ear.

They are in the crepe myrtle.  They crash into the clean glass of the picture window, making a noise much larger than their size warrants. Sometimes, they attach themselves to the window itself. I watch their antennae twitch.

I remember reading that butterflies taste with their feet and I wonder how glass communicates that it is not edible. I see a small one alight on the black metal gate and flee as quickly as it landed. Black metal must not be a tasty dish.

The leaves of my roses and bougainvilla and spring bulbs are bitten into interesting patterns. Some are nibbled around the edges.  Some have holes chewed out from the middle.  Some have the tips snipped off, as if with a razor blade.

Chemical sprays and home remedies exist, should I want to address the situation.  I don't.

I like the masticated leaves almost as much as I like the butterflies themselves. I like what they signify. The caterpillars themselves are creepy, with their soft, segmented bodies and their squirmy perambulations across the walkways.  I don't like it when they drop from the trees onto my back.  I don't like it when they are lazing in the sunshine in the spot I'd intended for my bare foot.  But I like the fact that they dine from my buffet.

I spent several years photographing the bugs I met along the way. I won't post those photos here, in deference to my daughter, who reads this and squeals when she sees them, and to FAMBB and Tennis Mom who read this with their morning coffee. I was obsessed with the delicacy of their limbs and the intensity of their coloration.  I never wanted to touch them, or get closer than the other side of the camera's lens, but I admired their beauty.

The caterpillar exists to become the butterfly, and for that I can tolerate its presence in my yard. Together, we are creating these floating fans.  They eat, I fertilize and water, then we wait for the unveiling.

It takes a lot longer than I'd like. I have to put up with irritation and annoyance. The caterpillar has to turn itself inside out to get to where it is going.  It's a tiring, necessary process, one that must proceed in an orderly fashion, step by step, with good form at each level in order to support the more complex tasks ahead.

And in the end, there is beauty.
I started this with a clear notion of the segue between that story and my own rehab. It had something to do with not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, with letting time work its magic, with patience, with overlooking the yucky parts and concentrating on the end result.

Unfortunately, it's gone.

I know that Aesop let the reader draw her own conclusions, but I feel the need to lay it out, if not for you, then for myself.  I need the reminders in writing, forever, allowing me to focus on the future without worrying that I will forget the past.

I avoid watching video of myself since I intersected with bullets. I don't like the way I move. I've noticed surprise in strangers' eyes as they see me limp; I'm awkward and ungainly and it looks like it hurts.  It doesn't.... except in my heart.  I'm the caterpillar, irritating the onlooker.

Today, though, I caught a glimpse of the butterfly lurking within.

For a few minutes this afternoon, I walked. Fluidly, confidently, evenly, arms swinging and hips turning, head held high, I walked and I kept walking and soon I wasn't even thinking about it because the sweat was mingling with my tears.  Just a few tears.... happy tears.... as my physical therapist complimented my swagger, my big turns, and then I was strolling... ambling along, one foot, the other foot, no rush, no hurry, no reason to get off my injured leg and back onto the one I knew would hold me up, wide, easy, long, and languid footsteps, each side supporting my weight evenly, without drama. My hips and my shoulders were parallel to the earth as I glided over her surface.

I'm rocking side to side as I type this.  I haven't felt this limber in three years.  I had to share my accomplishments, and remind myself to leave the caterpillars alone.  There is, after all, a butterfly lurking within.


  1. I have been reading your blog for a while now, and am so pleased to hear about your butterfly swagger...hip hip hoorah! (pardon the pun).

  2. Swing those hips, mama!


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