Metamorphosis

“All conditioned phenomena are impermanent; when one sees this with wisdom, one becomes weary of dukkha [suffering or unsatisfactoriness]. This is the Path to Purity.”

The Buddha, The Dhammapada v. 277

Day 1: I found the caterpillar of a Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanilliae) on 7 October 2013, perched on the steel beam of a guardrail.

Day 2: Next day, the caterpillar was in the exact same spot but was moving so imperceptibly.  Its coloration appeared bleached.  My immediate suspicion was that it was preparing to pupate; but in the next moment, I worried it was actually dying (I am naturally a worrier).  Carefully, I transported it back to the lab.

Day 3: Overnight, the caterpillar had shed its spiny skin one last time as a larva, having transitioned into a chrysalis. Unfortunately, it was not properly attached to anything.  If allowed to develop like this, lying on its side on a leaf, the wings will be disfigured upon emergence.  My supervisor, a biologist, used Elmer’s glue to attach it to a twig so it could hang as it should.  Did you know that the pupa responds to stimuli?  It is not totally inert.  I was struck by the reality that this thing is still part of the world – continuing to grow and change – even while it is encapsulated, suspended in time.  Like you or me, it does not like to be poked and prodded; it moves away from perceived threats.  But in this stage, it has become far more vulnerable.  

In Nature, we can easily see the Truth of Impermanence.  Although more directly referring to the fleetingness of thoughts, conditions, and feelings, annica is easier to understand in what we find tangible.  If you spend a lot of time outdoors and slow down enough to see things As They Really Are, you will discover that we cannot cling to what does not stay.

Everything changes.

In retrospect, I should have left the caterpillar exactly where she was.  More than likely, she would have developed just fine.  But, overcome with worry, I altered the course of her existence.  In 11 to 21 days, we will find out if she survives.

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