Have you ever thought of a caterpillar’s life? Sure you have. We all have. And what is it that you think of when you think of this seemingly insignificant little bug’s life? Transformation, right? We look at the caterpillar as an insect that starts out weird and creepy but gradually morphs into something beautiful and worthy of photographing and inspiring all things for junior high girls. But you know what? I decided something the other day. I am tired of focusing on this tiny insect’s future… because what about the ones that don’t make it to butterflies? Are they any less important, just because they never made it to the status of their friends and family members?
I was taking a walk with the littlest one the other day. We were in the park, doing laps. Mama’s trying to fix her thighs while Baby’s trying to not scream every few minutes out of being cooped up inside for one more minute. So, in order to beat the heat, we took our stroll right after the Bigs got on the bus. Now, generally, I get my walking mode on and I focus on my breathing, my heart rate, the sweat pouring from every inch of my body. I am rarely out strolling, looking for bugs. (Make that NEVER out strolling, looking for bugs.) However, that morning the bugs were finding me.
There I was, trying to make 12-minute miles with the stroller, when all of a sudden, a caterpillar fell from a tree and smacked off the side of the stroller! I thought we were being invaded by squirrels before I realized what had hit us. I stopped mid-work out and knelt down, sure the caterpillar was going to be a smooshed mess. But lo and behold, there the furry little guy was, working that hairy little rump up and down, making his way across the road as quickly as he could… which honestly was slower than watching paint dry.
This is when something hit me (quite literally). Wow, I thought. What if a car was coming? This little guy wouldn’t stand a chance. I returned to my stroller and gave Little Man some more cheerios before we began walking again. And guess what happened? ANOTHER caterpillar fell from the sky and hit me in the shoulder like a rock! This time, it was one of those grotesquely gigantic green guys with the short little legs. He was about 3 inches long and looked like he could’ve been just as wide. He was a fatty catty if I ever saw one! Once I stopped freaking out about potential caterpillar guts being on my shoulder, I bent down again. The poor fella wasn’t moving.
I felt a sense of grief wash over me. What in the world is WRONG with me?? It’s a freaking bug! I don’t even like bugs. Things with more than 4 legs and things with NO legs are just not OK in my world… so why do I suddenly want to cry? I stared down at the lifeless caterpillar one last time before I proceeded with my walk. Baby and I moved with speed as we completed our first loop. We were about to walk past the caterpillar again and the sadness that I’d tried to ignore gripped me once more.
I really must get my hormone levels re-checked, I said to myself as we came upon the bug. But this time, I looked down and saw that the little chubster had rolled himself back onto his legs and was slowly, very very slowly, moving across the walkway! You guys, the relief I felt was intense (and ridiculous). And as Baby and I continued walking and I didn’t even notice the sweat or the heavy-breathing… I felt joy for the caterpillar, a simple insect that had fallen at least 20 feet and SURVIVED.
We were making our second full loop around the park and I was anxious to see how far our new little friend had made it. But as we rounded the bend, I saw them. Crows. There were 4 big, nasty, black crows, looking in the direction of my small buddy. (PS, you have to understand, I dislike birds only second to disliking bugs… this was such a weird day for me all around.)
I parked the stroller to the side and started towards the place where we’d last seen him, but on my way, I nearly stepped on ANOTHER caterpillar! And when I looked around, I saw THREE more caterpillars on the ground between myself and the fatty catty. What the crap is happening in the park today?? Apparently we really were being invaded! It was then that the crows made their move.
A particularly hungry-looking bird flapped and was airborne in moments. He made a few short bursts with his wings before landing several feet from the big green caterpillar. And this is where I’m pretty sure I made a gigantic fool of myself to all the other stroller-pushing moms and dog-walkers in the park that morning. It was if my heart was saying, “Heck no, not on my watch!” because in that moment, I ran, waving my arms and yelling, towards the birds.
There’s a chance I will be banned from the park for scaring my local community members, but I don’t care. I grabbed a leaf and a stick (because it’s still a bug and Ew, gross) and I gently moved my catty to the grass on the other side of the street, safely away from dogs, strollers, tennis shoes, cars and crows. I returned to my baby and we finished our walk. I watched the sidewalk with care, dodging zillion-legged little friends left and right.
I got to my car and literally sat there, tears streaming down my face. How many caterpillars have I killed or injured without even realizing it in my lifetime? How many have I walked by without seeing, simply because they weren’t beautiful like butterflies?
It turned out it wasn’t my hormones after all. It had been God, speaking to my heart, appealing to my humanity. Caterpillars, they live a dangerous life. They’re so slow, they are constantly falling from high places apparently, and they have predators all around. And no one cares. Not one person stops and thinks, “Aw, what an amazing creature!” All that people think is that one day, that bug will be special.
I cried because my kids… they are caterpillars. They are slow (oh my gosh, they are slooooowww) to learn, slow to follow rules, slow to “get it” like normal kids do. And my kids are constantly falling down, not in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense. They take a few steps forward and fall on their faces over and over and over again. And there are so many predators that want to throw in the towel with them, forget about them, sit at another lunch table than them. You guys, sometimes I have been a predator for my own kids.
But they are special. They are worthy. Not just because one day they have the potential to become butterflies. No. They are special and they are worthy because God created them, flaws and all, and He placed them in this dangerous life to be cared for by me. By my husband. By our family and our friends. By our community. By our system.
Friends, one dead caterpillar is simply unacceptable. I won’t allow it. Because my heart won’t let me… And I will answer it’s urgent cry, arms waving, screaming like a lunatic. “Heck no. Not on my watch.”