The wisdom of Gaia emerges from billions of years of Life – we are a part of this Life, but our behaviour does not appear to reflect this reality!
This post is one example of the beauty and complexity and that we are surrounded by and I feel it is a salient reminder to us to start managing ourselves and stop trying to manage Gaia.
“The birds keep taking ‘my’ monarch caterpillars.” I lamented to a visiting friend and showed her the empty swan plant.
“One minute they’re all fat and juicy looking and the next minute they’ve vanished! I’m going to cover the plant to stop the wretched birds taking them!”
That was the moment when I learnt that my intention would have been interfering in one of Nature’s incredible acts of transformation. The caterpillars purposefully leave their swan plant home that has sustained them from miniscule pearly white egg, to two inch yellow and black striped caterpillar, to find the perfect spot for their extraordinary metamorphosis into the beautiful monarch butterfly.
Enlightened, I got down on my hands and knees and started scouring the vegie patch beside the swan plants. Carefully turning over leaves, peering through the rambling tomatoes and beans I was disappointed to find nothing and couldn’t shake my initial bad feelings towards the bird population!
A day passed. It was lunch time. I headed out to the vegie patch. Bending down to cut some garlic chives I stopped in amazement …. dangling from one of the long, thin leaves was a chrysalis!
“I’ve found one! I’ve found one!”
I became obsessed. I wanted to see how this transformation had taken place. Googling monarch butterflies I became gripped. I was David Attenborough. I was also the cameraman. I had to see it happening for myself. With three fat and juicy caterpillars looking likely candidates my obsession played out.
Caterpillars are surprisingly fast movers. If I left them for more than a few minutes it was challenging to find them again. They were obsessed with finding the perfect pupating place. I was obsessed with seeing them pupate! I decided to interfer with Mother Nature – just a little bit – to make it easier for them and me! Selecting one who had rejected the vegie patch and set off across the grass I strategically placed an old wire basked in front of her. Climbing aboard, she examined it thoroughly and initially decided against its suitability. Bother… but I can be persistent and with another strategic positioning, the basket got the ‘thumbs up’. Now I could relax and thrill to the utterly extraordinary process of a caterpillar transforming herself firstly into a pupa/chrysalis and eventually a monarch butterfly. And what an effort it is!
The site had to be thoroughly examined and experienced before she wove a solid white knob of silk and clung to it with her last set of claspers. Motionless for about 24hrs, during which I think she was preparing herself for the massive process she was about to go through. Her next move was to curl head down into a J shape.
Once settled like this it was roughly 24 hours before I could see any outward signs of change. Firstly her long antenae started to crumple and the bend of the J turned an imperceptible shade of pale green.
At this point I made a ‘fatal’ mistake! I decided to nip inside for breakfast….. oh no! how ignorant I was of their timings. When I came back out about 45 mins later half the chrysalis was formed… Darn it! I so wanted to see the beginnings of the process.
Ah well – I watched as she twisted and turned, a miniature green ‘sleeping bag’ suspended by a gossamer thread writhing and wriggling to sluff off her caterpillar skin. It eventually fell to the ground – tiny black crumpled remains of a life lived as a caterpillar. The wriggling slowed and I watched in awe of the delicate jade chrysalis decorated with gold dots and attached to the white silk knob by a 2mm jet black thread.
I was determined to experience the final marvel – a monarch butterfly emerge from this exquisitely beautiful jewel. I left her to settle in for a couple of days before carefully carrying the wire basket into our porch and placing it gently on a table out of harms way, where I could keep an eye on her progress.
She’s subsequently been joined by another jewel hanging from a different basket.
Reflecting on what I’ve done I recognised our insatiable desire to manage. I would appear that our species has decided that it’s OK for us to manage the planet. But … she’s been around for billions of years happily and extremely effectively managing herself; we are so young and as yet haven’t even learnt to manage ourselves in a manner that is acceptable to planetary health…
“Nearer and nearer draws the time……” The time when we experience for real the emergence of a monarch butterfly from her chrysalis in our garden! The jade green chrysalis is now rapidly getting darker and darker!!
I noticed the change in colour first thing this morning ….. and have been checking her frequently all day. Apparently this darkening happens about 24 hrs prior to her emergence!!! And even more exciting is that the chrysalis becomes transparent so you can see her wings! Oh my goodness!
As they favour first thing in the morning to emerge I’ll be up at ‘crack of sparrows’ tomorrow (Monday 21st Jan), camera in hand. Full moon tonight – how appropriate for this final dramatic act to be played out. It hasn’t even been two weeks ….
What I ignorantly thought was a crack appearing turned out to be the chrysalis expanding to accommodate the ready to emerge butterfly!
And next I made my second stupid mistake!! I went inside for 20 mins to charge my phone and post updates, thinking everyone would like to experience the miracle in real time…. raced back out…..
MISSED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a joke!!! Sucked in by our addiction to social media.
Humbled by Gaia and her lesson to stay present with real life!
Regardless, the monarch butterfly was absolutely exquisite – her markings are divinely beautiful – and only 10 days ago she was a black and yellow striped caterpillar. I stared transfixed by her delicate markings – azure blue legs, velvety black body with brilliant white markings, powdery orange wing patches bordered with black and speckled with white dots.
Distracted by a movement out of the corner of my eye … I looked left and … oh my goodness what do I see but another monarch!!! Barely 20cm away another one had emerged and was making her way up an eggplant leaf… the irony of it!! How I laughed!! So focused on the one, I was oblivious to what was going on around me.
So – the magic moment of emergence will have to wait. But the good news is that we have two more chrysalis in the garden and two hanging in the porch from the wire baskets… so if I can stay focused there is still a chance to catch that private moment of emergence.
Gaia’s wisdom and magic remains a mystery. And that’s fine. We are privileged to be a part of her and to live within her embrace.