I always assumed that when a caterpillar made its metamorphosis into a butterfly, it went through a fairly straightforward transformation.
I thought the caterpillar made its cocoon, crawled inside, and while it slept, its wings grew and body elongated and then when all that was done, the new butterfly cracked through the cocoon and flew away.
I was very surprised and startled to learn what *really* happens to a caterpillar once it is inside its cocoon: it basically liquifies itself. The body of the caterpillar breaks down into its basic “imaginal” cells (which are similar to stem cells) and then the cells actually reform into a whole NEW creature- that of a butterfly. New body, new form, new head, new legs, new wings, new brain and heart… I’m not an expert on insect anatomy, but I think you know what I am getting at.
EVERYTHING is changed for that caterpillar.
Once I learned about this process, I couldn’t forget it. And it made me think about human life, and the ways that we evolve and change as individuals throughout our own lives.
I think that our (human) lives are ultimately made up of a myriad of opportunities for transformation and metamorphosis.
And a lot of them are scary as hell. Seriously. Change is a super scary thing. The possibility of losing some of what we know to be true in the process of change is even scarier. Sometimes, when faced with change, we even feel as if we might be asked to risk it all.
Just entertaining the possible outcomes of any situation can be very draining, and it’s often easier to just leave things the way they are and go about life as we know it.
I have to wonder this: if caterpillars had a choice in the matter, would they still transform into butterflies knowing what they had to go through in order for the transformation to happen? Would they have the courage to risk everything (literally everything- including their entire physical form) to become a butterfly? Even if they knew what was ahead (Wings! Flight!), and how much impact their individual forms had on the entire world (who isn’t completely inspired and in awe of butterflies?), would they still choose to go ahead with it?
Likely, there would be a lot fewer butterflies in the natural world.
But then here’s an interesting note about caterpillars and butterflies: some studies have shown that butterflies can remember bits of their lives as caterpillars, even though most of their “being” is completely transformed. Maybe “risking it all” isn’t quite as thorough as we think…
So, the next time you are faced with change and don’t believe you have the courage required to deal with it, think of the caterpillar. Not only what their metamorphosis entails, but what the end results are. The butterfly. A whole new form, a whole new perspective from up above. A different approach to life. The ability to take flight and literally dazzle the world.
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.