The first time I saw one of these critters during a jog, I thought it looked like something from a sci-fi movie with all its knobs and protrusions. But after some research, I learned that it is the precursor to something quite beautiful.
When this fella crawled up on the side of the door, I figured it would inch away like the other 8 million caterpillars roaming our desert paradise. But it didn’t. It parked right there, next to the metal door frame.
So I watched it all day. And watched it some more. Then I gently poked it, watching it recoil ever so slightly, and I figured it was dying since it had stopped moving.
But behold, the very next day, it had transformed into this:
Then just two days later, the chrysalis had transformed, again, into this:
For the next week, I kept telling hubby that our little science gift from Mother Nature had succumbed to the heat. “It’s all going on inside,” he said. “You have to be patient.” Me, patient? Does this man not know the woman he married?
But I have to confess: I thought I could see the ridges of eyes forming on top of the now-brown pod, the faint traces of patterned wings emerging under that armor that resembled a raised-relief map of ridges and horns. Nah. It was just my geeky wishful thinking. The critter was dead.
Or was it? A short nine days later, I just happened to rush out the door (hoping I hadn’t missed the garbage truck). Upon my return, I saw this:
Even though I missed baby’s first steps (heh heh), I was awestruck – especially at how this butterfly, rightfully rumpled as it made its way into the world, could even fit in those cramped quarters. It seemed to defy logic – especially learning that only about 10 percent of caterpillars even make it to the pupating (resting) stage.
The first few attempts to shake out those wings were clumsy and actually landed him on the concrete, crawling toward me, crawling over my leg, up the camera strap, on my arm, over my shoulders, on my neck.
I love the wonder of nature, and that I was privy to the unfolding of this little life, the light pressure of butterfly feet dancing on my skin.
For Writers: The butterfly is a metaphorical wonderland. I could relate this creature – and this personal experience – to a writer’s metamorphosis (or to the stages of a story); to the cocoon some of us feel we live in as isolated writers; to opening our wings as writers; or even to life and death themes (of our ideas, of our characters), given the adult butterfly’s short lifespan of only about two weeks.
But I’m curious … what do you think when you read this post and view these photos? How does the butterfly relate to your writing journey, your writing process, to writing in general? What lessons does the pipevine swallowtail offer, if any?