I am caring for 11 monarch caterpillars in my garden during July and August. I am so hopeful, invested in each little life. I want to see them all transform into butterflies, to see that nature still holds promise, that the unimaginable is possible, that beauty and delight have not deserted us.
Nature is not so straightforward.
To my dismay, only two of them live to full maturity. Number One emerges while I am away, and I miss it. Then, ten days after transforming itself into a chrysalis, Number 11 cracks open and yes! A new butterfly folds out. Its wings are fragile and malformed. It behaves as though it is still its former self, still a worm that crawls. Its body is bloated and full of toxins. It flexes and flaps but does not fly. It literally clings to the shell of its old life.
Hours pass. The wings gradually straighten and solidify. When it flies from the garden, its flight is halting, awkward, lacking grace. It crashes into a palm tree, where it spends the night, too far to return, too weak to go on. In the morning sun it flexes its wings again, but still does not fly—until a sudden breeze lifts it, ready or not! And it is away.
The metaphor is unexpectedly complex. Instead of simple faith in progress it seems to say, take your time. Don’t expect too much at once. Allow ourselves to grow strong enough before we attempt to catch the wind. And even then, trust that the moment will come when we don’t need to do anything, except let go.