It took a few hours for her to show some interest in leaving the glass bowl that had been her home for the last month. Fanning her wings and inching her way to the top of the rim were the first signs.
I took her to the outside deck. It was the perfect fall day for the release, warm and calm.
And…she made a surprise landing before her final departure.
Looking back on the last month, there were a few highlights. Finding the caterpillar was definitely an exciting day. The milkweed is more abundant here than in previous years, but it still required looking at many, many plants before I finally found her.
The second experience that took me a bit by surprise was my emotional reaction when she finally encased herself in the pupa. One day she was in her caterpillar body and then she was gone. It felt like a loss, and I wasn’t prepared for not seeing her anymore in the same ways.
I felt such joy when she finally emerged, especially when she fanned her wings and I could see her in her full beauty. But I need to say something here about joy. Brené Brown, the social scientist who presently has a book on the New York Times bestseller list, talks about joy being the most vulnerable emotion we experience. “We’re afraid,” she writes, “that if we allow ourselves to feel it, we’ll get blindsided by disaster or disappointment. That’s why,” she continues, “that in moments of real joy, many of us dress rehearse tragedy.” This helps to explain why, as I saw her sitting on the pine branch, I imagined a giant bird, maybe a heron, swooping down and grabbing her. I also knew, however, that the antidote to this kind of thinking is gratitude, and the butterfly and I had lots to be grateful for. She brought me, and by extension you, many moments of wonder as this whole process unfolded. It also turns out that if I hadn’t found her and moved her inside she would have died when the farmer harrowed the field where she was living. There were many moments of grace, capped off by her release.
Safe travels, little one!