Thursday, June 11, 2009

Caterpillars of Learning

Congratulate us. We have become the proud caregivers of a brand new Painted Lady butterfly! Our project has been going well. Sierra was very excited to see the first butterfly hanging from the remnants of its cocoon. She fussed over it all afternoon, partly out of necessity since Dusty had noticed it fluttering in the mesh habitat. Sierra spent the rest of the morning asking me questions. Why isn't it flying yet? (It just came out of its cocoon) Can we feed it now? (I think we should wait for its wings to dry) How long does it take for the wings to dry? (At least an hour) Has it been an hour yet? (It hasn't even been five minutes) On and on it went.

butterfly 1

I started thinking about this transformation. The caterpillars didn't hold much interest for the kids, other than to find out if they were entering chrysalides yet. All caterpillars do is eat and poo. I guess I should be thankful they don't cry, but I feel a little sorry that their baby stage was so overlooked.

When I think about it, how bad is a life where all you do is eat? Wouldn't it be great if we could eat ourselves into a stupor, make a cocoon, and emerge into this beautiful winged creature?

Then I started thinking of it in terms of learning. We also go through that caterpillar period of eating and pooing, a period where only the most basic needs must be met. In our cocoon period, we begin to address the higher needs of the mind, a period of knowledge and spirituality. As the cocoon becomes clear, the butterfly prepares to emerge. How cool is that! In clarity it is ready to step out into the world. Emerging from our cocoon is a difficult process, much like a second birth. Think of the growing pains that our young people go through between their late teens and mid-twenties. That process of becoming an adult can be stressful struggle. We want to fly, but we were so safe in our cocoons. Unfortunately, not every butterfly emerges.

butterfly 2

Those who do emerge still have challenges. After the butterfly is born, it releases meconium, which is all the unneeded material and color left over from its transformation. Just as we leave behind our childhood to enter the world, the butterfly must leave this behind to fly. It pumps its wings to open them and dry them, preparing them. This is the work we do as we struggle to begin life as an adult.

And then it flies! How wonderful to reach this point! You've succeeded my little butterfly, the world is yours to sample. Enjoy the nectar of the flowers, find a mate, and do your best to keep away from the predators.

And so another life lesson from watching animals:

butterfly 3

You can't live your life in a cocoon. Feed your body, feed your mind, feed your soul.

Update: All five butterflies have now emerged! We've never been so successful with this. It's quite a momentous occasion. No wonder people enjoy raising butterflies! Now to convince Sierra to release them in the next couple of days...


flmom said...

Very neat post and what a beautiful butterfly! Our dill and parsley are covered in black swallowtail eggs and larva - the boys are very excited.

flmom said...

Hurray! How cool all five have emerged.

I have tried and tried to get a photo of the eggs, but they always blur. They are the tiniest little round balls - some are a light/pale green and others are a milky white color. Our two largest larva were gone this evening, possibly a meal for the birds.

appleleaf said...

What beautiful creatures they are.
I thought your analogy was spot-on. We've sort of moved on to the butterfly stage I like to think, and are witnessing those awkward stages in our children.
So many little baby creatures are extra cute, but the catterpillar is quite an exception. Seems designed for analogies about true beauty.
Thanks for that lower post by Mary Ann. I've read it and will get my dh to read it too, as we get quite concerned about Logan's passion in this gaming area.

Vicki said...

Beautiful! My oldest butterfly is ready to be released into the world and so far so good. =)

As for Miss Seirra's butterflies, couldn't you just move some beautiful potted plants into her room and release her babies in there?
When she's ready, all she would have to do is open her window! Who knows? Maybe they will come back and visit... =D

Inner Elder said...

A beautiful post, Tina. Congratulations on your gorgeous butterflies, Sierra. I think you learned a lot.
Love, Grandma

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