Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Summer of Butterflies

Recently, something came up that reminded me of a dark time in my life. During that time, most of Impeccable was written.

After that time, though, something remarkable happened. My "Summer of Butterflies" happened.

After the discussion about that dark time in my life, I felt the need to revisit the Summer of Butterflies. I began to share it with others too, hoping to bring a little light and inspiration to their days.

Today, I share it with you.

This piece was featured in the 2011 Nature's Gift Anthology by Vanilla Heart Publishing.

Happy reading! ;)

The summer of 2010 was my first summer in North Country. A born and bred city girl, I now found myself living in a county where the bovine population significantly out-numbered the human population.
I would be inclined to say it was an ordinary summer, and it was, save for one giant gift from Mother Nature: butterflies. Monarch butterflies, to be precise.
I‘ll never forget watching my partner come in with a plant saying that she had something to show us. On a milk weed leaf was a large black and yellow caterpillar. The kind of caterpillar that turns into a beautiful monarch butterfly. We gathered a jar, placed the milk weed and a moist paper towel in it. Then we let the caterpillar do his caterpillar business. Our four year old watched him day after day in his ―changing room.‖ Our entire family was filled with excitement watching and waiting to see this miraculous transformation. Ten days later, a big, beautiful monarch butterfly stretched his wings and was ready to take flight.
Just a day or two after the first butterfly hatched, my mother-in-law acquired yet another caterpillar! Just as we had done with the first, we got this new little guy all settled into his new jar home and we once again found ourselves waiting and watching for butterfly number two. He hatched two weeks later, and our little girl was fortunate enough to watch him flutter away towards the horse pasture into the light blue summer sky.
Butterflies are amazing little creatures, you see. Prior to cocooning, the caterpillar eats as much as it can (they apparently love milk weed). When you notice they stop eating, you know the time is soon. They‘ll find a spot and begin to dangle themselves upside down. For us, it seemed they like to make their cocoons at night for
we would see an upside-down caterpillar one day and a little green cocoon the next morning. While these incredible insects are in their ―changing rooms,‖ they basically eat themselves to near death. I don‘t quite know or understand this phenomenon, but they leave just a few cells remaining to regenerate and to create this entirely new body as a butterfly. The process takes anywhere from ten days to two weeks, and then they break out of the cocoon and are ready to face the world in their new suit.
While butterfly number two was changing, the greatest of my butterfly gifts arrived. We were unloading our air compressor from the truck when I noticed there was another monarch caterpillar. This one was hanging upside-down on the back part of the compressor. From that moment on, I watched diligently over that new butterfly. I didn‘t want anything to happen to this precious life hanging on my compressor. This little guy didn‘t realize he had picked a very noisy and shaky home. So I always watched over him when the machine was in use. Plus, unbeknownst to him, he was cocooning on our machine during the biggest show of the chainsaw carving season. Poor little bug was trying to change on a machine that was being used frequently. I‘d talk to him every time I needed to use the air compressor, and I would check on him after every use. I would breathe a sigh of relief when I saw that he was still hanging tough. I named him John Wayne, because he was such a tough little guy. On his third day in a cocoon, the rain down poured on us. We received over seven inches of rain that day. Thankfully, though, my partner made sure that she placed John Wayne under the safety of her carving tent so that the little guy wouldn‘t get washed away.
After that show, we used the air compressor at home, but we finally stopped using it all together because he was due to hatch very soon. I was so excited to see this little one make it. He really had the odds stacked against him, but he seemed to be flourishing despite his choice of home.
On day twelve of John Wayne‘s cocooning, my partner and I were on location, working on a large carving. It was an exceptionally hot day that day. We were trying to stay as cool as we could. We were keeping ourselves hydrated and even misting ourselves with water so we wouldn‘t over-heat while we were carving. As we were working, one little butterfly flew all around me and wouldn‘t leave me alone. Then, amazingly enough, it landed on me. Not just for a moment, but several moments. Several moments turned into several minutes as the butterfly made himself quite comfortable on my arm. So comfortable, in fact, that it began drinking moisture from my arm! It was amazing to watch. While he quenched his thirst, the butterfly and I studied each other. I looked at his pencil-thin legs with little black hairs. His eyes were a deep, dark red and resembled those of a fly. His tongue was a thin, long black apparatus that lightly tickled me. He was freckled with innumerable white spots. His bright orange wings rested closed while he drank. He cocked his head to look at me. I can only imagine what I must have looked like to him! That was a wonderful once in a life-time experience.
Days thirteen and fourteen came and went and John Wayne still hadn‘t hatched. I was concerned, but his cocoon was still bright and looked healthy. Perhaps
John was simply a late bloomer. I knew that nature knew what she was doing, so I took comfort in her perfection.
I was away all day on day fifteen, so I was unable to check on the little guy. As much as I had wanted to watch him hatch and take flight, I was sure he already had and I was quite content.
On day sixteen, my partner and I went to check on our air compressor friend. My heart sank as we approached. He didn‘t look good. The cocoon was thin and the color was starting to turn dark. The more we looked, the more it appeared that John Wayne hadn‘t made it. When a cocoon turns black, it indicates that the butterfly has died inside. Whether it had gotten too cold one night or what, we weren‘t sure. What we sure of was that the little caterpillar, in whom I had put so much faith and hope, was never going to fly.
I cried for the little man. I had such high hopes for him. He seemed so strong and determined to live. If any caterpillar deserved the chance to live as a butterfly, it was John Wayne.
The next day, I moped around and asked my partner if we could bury John Wayne. It seemed silly to bury a butterfly, but this little guy had touched my heart and I wanted to do something special to honor him. I remembered the butterfly that drank from my arm and I resolved myself to that being a great gift from nature to help balance out my loss from John. Nature is balance. Life is cyclical. All of the seasons balance each other. The moon balances the ebb and flow of the ocean. Within nature, we find perfect harmony and perfect balance. So, it only stood to reason that nature would gift me an experience like that in order to balance out the death of John Wayne.
Day eighteen started out like any other. I was still sad over the loss of John Wayne. I was trying to determine the best place to bury the little man. I had just pulled up to my parking space when my partner called me.
―Hey Laur?‖
―Hey. What‘s up?‖
―You‘re not going to believe this. I was going into the barn by the shelves and this monarch butterfly slowly flew in front of me and over my head. Then, I went to check the shelves and John Wayne‘s cocoon was empty.‖
I was floored. How could this happen? How could this be? His cocoon was thin and black! John Wayne‘s re-birth as a butterfly defied the odds and defied all reason. However it was that this miracle came to be, I cried tears of joy and the giant smile on my face could not be erased. Nature gifts us miracles in all sizes, and John Wayne was one of those miracles. I later saw his empty cocoon. I still couldn‘t believe it even when I saw it, but he did indeed hatch. I‘m sorry I wasn‘t able to witness his first flight, but I know that he flew around my partner to thank her for taking such good care of him. I still miss his company, but am ecstatic over his existence!
John Wayne was my greatest gift from nature. My miraculous monarch.

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