The theme of last week became an overall lesson on the value of life. It began Tuesday night when I found a bright orange butterfly with silver underwings stranded in the middle of the alley, slowly flapping its wings. One of my hobbies is collecting dead bugs and studying/drawing them and an intact butterfly is always a prize. So the scientist in me leaped for joy and I scooped it up and very carefully carried it home, bringing it inside so I could film it before it died. A rare opportunity. I filmed the butterfly for 45mins, just staying in place and flapping its wings... it was so beautiful, so delicate, and I felt so helpless just watching and waiting for it to die. How do you help a butterfly? My thoughts wandered, thinking about what it must be like to know you are going to die, and have to wait for it while loved ones watched helplessly. Felt incredibly internal and sad at the end of this filming session and made a "nest" in one of my plants outside for the butterfly to rest in.
Morning comes, butterfly is still alive. This time, I can't watch anymore and use the power of the internet. Butterfly starving? Lethargic? Sure enough, I find a post that tells me to put sugar water in a shallow dish near the butterfly. I do this and two hours later the butterfly is gone. Miracle. End of story? No, unfortunately.
I receive the phone call that afternoon. My friend Paul has passed away from the brain cancer he was diagnosed with over 2 years before. I burst into tears, and think again on the butterfly. This was Paul, beautiful, knowing he was going to die and giving nothing but love to everyone around him. He passed away in the arms of his wife, with his baby daughter nearby.
Saturday: attend his memorial... life is in perspective, for the moment. Enjoy/embrace everyday. Give as much love as possible...
Sunday. back to bugs. There are these bright orange and black-spiked caterpillers chomping away all over my beloved passion flowers. I don't want to put poison on them because of my dogs, and I read somewhere that dishsoap and water does the trick. But instead, I have a better idea. I will collect them in a jar- they will die (I would have killed them anyway) and I can spend hours and hours drawing them. Perfect. So my son and I spend the next half hour or so scooping up every caterpillar we can find and placing them in a glass jar.
Of course they start to scramble around like mad, and that guiltly voice about killing things begins to nag me. But they are killing my flowers! But slowly killing them like this? I thought they would die almost instantly in there. They were going to be killed anyway! AH! I can't stand to see anything die and I feel terrible at this point, seeing their little bodies freaking out. I keep thinking about how I saved the butterfly, but will kill the caterpillars. All because the butterfly is more beautiful and generally valued more among the insects we actually want in our gardens. To squash my guilt once and for all I jumped online to find out exactly what kind of caterpillar it was and prove how horrible it was that it was killing my plants.
Well, turns out it is a gulf fritillary.... it feeds almost exclusively on passion flower, AND it is the caterpillar that turns into the exact butterfly I re-vived a few days previous. Full circle.
What does this all mean, and where does my friend Paul fit in all this? I'm not exactly sure, but it certainly made me question how I valued life. That I should have no power to take it. That each living thing has something to contribute, including us. I know, it is a bug... but still a living being on this earth, and part of the biological balance that is so important to our survival as well. And it felt like a metaphor for something so much larger.
My friend Paul contributed so much in his short life- he gave love to everyone, invited everyone into his inner circle. He was nicknamed "the includer" by all his friends because of his gentle openess to all. He is an example to all who had the priveledge to know him.
I, of course, let all of the caterpillars go- placing them one by one back on my passion flower vine. I am going to trust that the vine is big enough to support all life- that for every flower that gets chomped, another will bloom for the butterflies, and I can enjoy it all. However, I WILL be drawing the caterpillars- just from pulling up a chair to the vine this time :). And this butterfly (I don't know exactly how just yet) will be the star of my next video piece.