Emergence revisited

It seems butterflies are more or less the quintessential metaphor for transformation - am I right?

But what about clinginess and hesitation?

Because of a good friend, whose enthusiasm and butterfly obsession rubbed off on me, I had the honor of 'raising' a bunch of caterpillars from egg to adult Monarch - a one month and six day project that became strangely addictive.

Besides learning that the little buggers are basically eating and pooping machines until they go into chrysalis stage, I was able to watch and predict their process of emergence, right down to the hour.

Nature can teach you a thing or two about patient observation.

So, in case you didn't know, once the butterfly - miraculously reformed from the goop the caterpillar dissolved into - splits open the casing and drops out, it doesn't just immediately take to the skies.

It can't yet.

The wings have yet to fully unfurl, and they're still heavy from the dampness of the cocoon. Or, so I surmised, based on the way it would cling like the dickens with tiny sticky feet to its cocoon shell, all the while, body and still-compact wings twisting back and forth in the breeze.

The last one I witnessed emerged (lovingly named #10) seemed to be exerting a particular effort, as one foot then another would lose its hold and then frantically try to regain it. I realized that gravity still played a huge role here, and losing this battle could mean dropping with potentially fatal damage to the wings.

A swift end before the unfathomably long journey to Mexico could even begin.

Fortunately, that did not happen, and, as with the nine cage mates that preceded it, he/she hung out to dry for several hours.

Eventually, it would walk/hang around other parts of the enclosure ceiling, check out the vacant shells of previous inhabitants, and stretch the delicate orange and black wings every so often as if to test them out.

Why did this intrigue me so?

I guess I found it encouraging.

The whole idea of one's entire being disintegrating into goop and then reassembling into a creature that in no way resembles its former self - while lovely as a thought - is hard for me to identify with as a human (biblical connotations aside), so metamorphosis as a metaphor doesn't work so well.

However, suddenly finding oneself endowed with the apparatus for astounding feats of flight, only, not automatically equipped with the readiness to use it, so you hang on for dear life to your old way of being as long as you can ... that I totally get.

In my New Year's post about choosing emergence as my word for the year, I quoted the definition: "the process of coming into view", or, "the process of coming into being, or of becoming important or prominent."

Common word here? Process. And what I now realize is just because you are now in view, you still have to take action and move forward.

When you're ready. It's a process.

And, it cannot be rushed. Or, for that matter delayed. I pulled Monarch #2 out the cage too early, not yet knowing better, and those poor wings just hung there limply. Lesson learned, and on the flip side, I pretty much knew you really shouldn't hang on to them as pets. They have a purpose and a journey, and you gotta let them go when the time comes.

Which they are somehow programmed to know. They know when it's time to surrender to the wind, and leave behind their vessels of protection and transformation for-evah.

butterfly on gina's head

I'm also pretty sure they don't overthink or romanticize or try to wring out very possible meaning and platitude for human life experience about this process like we humans do, and for that, I'm a little envious.

It can be exhausting.

Anyway, I guess all that means (or, I'd like to think it means) that just because I'm still not magically where I hoped I might be this time last year, that 'coming into view' still winds my stomach into knots, that I haven't taken to the skies yet, maybe it's because my wings are still unfurling.

But, at some point, that will no longer serve me as an excuse.

In the meantime, let's see what guiding words emerge for us for 2018 ... share yours below!