Saturday, July 24, 2010

Finding God in a caterpillar?

I was watching this caterpillar the other day, getting ready for that final molt that would reveal the next stage, the chrysalis. I decided that since I had already captured a monarch caterpillar pupating on video, I would just sit back (well, maybe sit really close up) and watch and enjoy the process. I even dragged Jerry out to see it. He sat dozing nearby as I assured him repeatedly that it wouldn’t be long now.
So, as I was closely watching, I knew from experience that the antennas would change from rounded, fleshy stalks to empty, twisted strands as the time got closer. And the body that had previously been resting motionless was now twitching and convulsing. I also noticed that the caterpillar’s head and front legs were rhythmically pulling up and then relaxing, over and over as if it were doing sit-ups, but I also thought it looked…as if it were fervently praying.

I know I’ve said this before, but I think it’s a miraculous thing that this creature, which starts out as one thing, then transforms itself to something altogether different, yet it is still the same individual, only in a new body. Under this caterpillar’s striped skin, the mold has already formed for that new body. Has it just formed in this last hour of convulsion and prayer? Or was it slowly transforming in the past 24 hours? Because before that, it was just a caterpillar, still eating and crawling around.

As the moment drew near, the caterpillar, which had been in the “J” position, was now, momentarily, in more of an “L”. Then it heaved itself upwards, and hung almost straight down. I called for Jerry to come close now, and he watched with me as the skin split right between the two antennas, and the green chrysalis emerged. This chrysalis, which just moments before lay beneath the caterpillar’s skin, already revealed the outline of the butterfly to come. Amazing. Every time I see it.

I know that a caterpillar doesn’t have the brains to do more than perform the pre-programmed acts that are wired into its very existence. I always tell this to the kids at school. It has no emotions. No thoughts. Instinct drives it to eat, to avoid being eaten, to grow, and to reproduce. Just those things, and it doesn’t think about them. It just does them. It doesn’t have a concept of God. But sometimes, this crazy agnostic buglady feels the presence of God in witnessing the metamorphosis of the caterpillar.
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