I've always thought of the metamorphic process with the emphasis on the beautiful creature that emerges at the end of the process. I imagine the time in the chrysalis (the cocoon) in more gentle, even mystical terms. This story completely changed that for me. The caterpillar is reduced to soup. Now I've made a few soups and stews in my day and I know that reduction requires a rapid boil on a high heat. This challenges my whole idea of caterpillar going into a sleep-like state and the transformation happens without really disturbing it. And that's just what goes on in the chrysalis.
Before the caterpillar can get to this stage, she:
- Is born and sheds her skin 5 times to accommodate for her growth
- Crawls 30-40 feet (which has to feel like forever) away from her home to find a safe place to pupate. Once found she has to hang from her last 2 legs in a j-shape for one day.
- Sheds her skin one last time to reveal the chrysalis that was under her skin the entire time. Her temporary home is about an inch in size and is soft at first, but hardens over time so it can keep her safe for the next stage.
- Reduces to soup and her old parts are used for new purposes
- Emerges, after 9-14 days, as a butterfly, her wings wet, small, and crumpled leaving her unable to fly and quite vulnerable to predators,not to mention the elements around her.
- Dries after an hour or so, ready to fly and start the process for another by mating and laying eggs
January is when we hear the classic battle-cry: "New Year, New You!". The NPR story reminds me that transformation is not a mystical experience. It is hard work. It is messy work. And most important, it is mindful work. So before I go tearing off to make a new me, there are questions that need to be considered:
- Am I shedding skin? Is the the first time, third time, or final time?
- Am I in a safe place? Am I ready to move in order to be in that place?
- Do I have a solid chrysalis around me?
- Am I really ready to melt?
- Am I up the the challenge of asking my old parts to do new things?
and last but not least...
Am I ready to fly?