Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking time to stop and see the miracles

Pre-pupate

It’s a typical scene around this place. I’ve got a to-do list a mile long.  I’m sure one of my kids is going to be low on underwear for lack of clean laundry, and twice this week we’ve eaten hotdogs and frozen vegetables.  I don’t even need to mention that there is homework to check and columns to write.
But they all have been pushed aside for the good, because this week my life has been centered around one thing: a caterpillar.  And I don’t even mind it’s poo that stained a piece of furniture.
A few days ago while practicing the fine art of being children, my kids were playing in the yard.  Footballs were thrown, someone made a craft from some tall grasses, and I was busy cleaning the kitchen and missing it all.  (Motherhood: if ever there was a time for maid or a clone…) 
Suddenly my son came in, yelling.  “Mom!  We found an awesome caterpillar!”  Being a self-proclaimed nature nut, I dropped everything and ran out.  And there it was, a beautiful and large swallowtail butterfly to-be, munching away on some wild carrot.
Knowing that these were not really harmful and easy to raise, the dishes piled up and I began to construct what I like to call the world’s sweetest caterpillar digs.  I dug up and potted host plants (its favorite foods) from around the yard, hand selected sticks with enough strength to stay up, and placed them all in a net enclosure.  One child named it “Harvey” and so we began to spend our days watching him.  Or her. 
I may have fed my children junk food, but Harvey got fresh parsley and wild carrot every day.  I checked to make sure he was always well fed and properly digesting and basically spent more time on this thing than I did myself.
One night we came home to find Harvey sprinting as much as a caterpillar could around the enclosure.  I thought he was just going bonkers until I noticed a big dark splotch on the bottom.
“Kids!!!!!  Come quick!!!!  He just emptied his digestive tract and he’s going to get ready to make a chrysalis!!” 
And when you say “insect diarrhea” to a little boy, they come running like you just offered them 10 pounds of candy. 
Later that night, after the sprinting stopped, Harvey found his perfect location on one of my hand-selected sticks and began to “pre-pupate” where he attaches his front and back to the stick, hunkers down, and waits to morph into a full chrysalis.
And that’s where I am right now, watching this motionless insect, waiting for him to make his final morph as a caterpillar.  The process takes only minutes once it starts, so against my better interest I plan on propping open my eyeballs with toothpicks and Scotch tape, drinking a pot of tea, and staring until I’m cross-eyed at this inch-long pre-pupating caterpillar, which has now come out of its cage and is propped right in the middle of my kitchen table.
If I make it to the miracle, I told my children I would wake them up.  Even if it’s midnight, or even if it’s 2:00 AM.  When something so cool is on your kitchen table, it’s worth it.
I’m sure that if I lived in a busier neighborhood, a hundred people might have walked right past little ol’ Harvey, munching away in the sunshine.  I’m thankful my children took the time to get at grass level, even it meant getting grass stains on their clothes.  Watching this caterpillar go through these amazing changes reminds me of how many incredible miracles of nature there are out there, and if I can get this much enjoyment out of watching something an inch long hook itself to a stick, I’m bound to smile a little larger, even if there’s a stain of caterpillar poo on my baker’s rack and even though the to-do list has spilled off the table, rolled out the door and under a bush. 
There just might be another caterpillar hiding under there.


A chrysalis!  I never saw it happen, but Harvey sits in waiting, another miracle in the making.


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