Monday, August 17, 2009

An Unusual Adoption

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a much-loved book that never makes it back on our bookshelves for long. Wyatt loves the page where the caterpillar eats so much he gets a stomach ache. The twins even crawl on me so they can stick their pudgy fingers in the holes where the caterpillar has eaten through the cardboard pages.

So, a month ago when I noticed a Gulf Fritillary butterfly laying tiny yellow striped eggs on my passion fruit vine, I decided to adopt a few caterpillars. I've grown quite attached to the orange-colored critters. Supposedly the spines are soft to touch. But in all honesty: I've been too chicken to test Wikipedia on that fact.
As you can imagine, Wyatt has been nothing but thrilled! He has had "real" bugs! And I let him keep them indoors on the kitchen cabinet!

But after the first few days in a peanut butter jar with an aerated tin foil cap, I realized their home wasn't big enough. Plus, Wyatt was constantly turning the jar at all angles, trying (and most of the time failing) to see the scrawny little caterpillars hiding between and beneath the leaves. I didn't think the constant jostling was too caterpillar-friendly.
Everyone was happy with the new upgraded habitat (my seed-sprouting dome)--the caterpillars had room to roam, Wyatt could easily see them, and there was room for the butterflies to hatch out of each chrysalis and flutter around to say, "Let Me Out of Here!!"

The problem was that the original butterfly kept laying eggs on the vine...and to Wyatt's delight, I kept adopting more caterpillars. So on top of feeding my three human children and 4 cats, I've also spent the last month feeding a hoard of voracious caterpillars! Their appetite would definitely get them booted out of an all-you-can-eat restaurant.

To date, Wyatt has reluctantly released 26 butterflies. I loved watching each lift its wings to the sky in joyous flight. Wyatt, however, wanted to let each one crawl on his finger and cried when a few flew away almost instantly. A couple thankfully climbed up his shirt, and one even elicited a few giggles when it climbed up his face. This time, I chose to leave Wyatt with perfect memories of caterpillars going "pop" and "out popped a beautiful butterfly." But this project, much like life, wasn't that perfect.

Over the past week, a fruit fly invaded the habitat, causing several to die within their chrysalises. And then there were the two who successfully hatched but then fell to the bottom of the cage before they could pump their wings full. I carefully placed those two on flowers and watched as they tried to flap crumpled tissue paper wings. The desire to fly was there. But they never would reach the freedom of the open sky.

We all have the desire to metaphorically fly, to break the chains that bind us in search of something "more". But all around me, I see so many people trying everything in their own power to pump their wings full for that inagural flight. And it doesn't work. So many live a crippled life, crawling rather than flying, all because they can't fathom how a man who died 2000 years ago could transform them in an instant. "Sad" doesn't begin to explain it.


  1. While delighted with the butterflies, I'm sure Wyatt was dissapointed in the way some of his catapillars' lives did not go as he had wished. And such is life.

    In the eyes of God, many of us have wings of faith that are crumpled. Many of us are going to make it into a butterfly. But how many of us are living close enough to Him where we can the ones that climb His shirt?

  2. Awesome thought, Kendall. Since the twins' birth, I feel like I'm hanging on for dear life just so I can make it through the day.

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