I’m the girl who skipped too many of her science classes with the foolish idea that Art with a capital A was the only thing that mattered. Yes, that’s me, the big idiot who missed out on knowledge and experience that might have made her life turn out So Much Better. I’m not saying I didn’t like science, especially science fiction; I was reading JG Ballard in high school for fun. But all my science classes involved memorizing lists and letters and numbers. No one ever talked about ideas. No one mentioned that science involves constant questioning. No teacher ever said, now class, I’m going to teach you about all the things we don’t know.
Like what is light made of? No one knows. Physicists have all kinds of theories, but no one knows what light actually is.
And how do butterflies metamorphose inside a chrysalis? We have a word for the transformation, and we know they liquefy and reorganize inside the chrysalis; but we don’t know how the caterpillar becomes a completely different creature. I don’t want to get all Silence of The Lambs creepy about it, but science is pretty seductive and amazing when you start thinking about Lepidoptera. Science starts sharing an edge with mythology and art when you start thinking about transformation. Science seems exciting, like poetry and magic.
I guess this is my mid-life crisis talking, looking for poetry and magic in the shabby graying ubiquitously ten pounds overweight rambling VW bus that is my life. Don’t we all look for poetry and magic? God I hope so. I hope there are not people out there who feel fine without any beauty in their lives.
A well-functioning butterfly garden looks a lot like a woman going through a mid-life crisis. Things are a little disheveled, a little overgrown; certain areas are unkempt or weedy. The butterfly gardener knows which weeds feed the butterflies and caterpillars. Cleaning up too much would destroy the habitat. It takes a bit of a mess for beautiful butterflies to emerge.
An Eastern Black Swallowtail emerged from the lavender yesterday. She didn’t fly out. She climbed up as high as she could go, and fluttered her wings while holding a branch. Then she climbed around some more, slowly pumped her wings, fluttered again, and then took off for the lilac bush. She didn’t make it. She flailed through the air and fell into the grass. She climbed and fluttered her wings, choosing taller and taller blades of grass. Her wings appeared completely intact, and I realized she must have just hatched and was drying out her wings and learning to fly.
With a life span of two to six weeks, a butterfly learns to fly once. With a lifespan of up to ninety years, a person does it again, and again, and again