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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Caterpillar’s Quest

It was a quiet summer afternoon in the magical garden, when a tiny caterpillar, whose name was Conlan, hatched from an egg. He was so small, not even twice the size of the egg from which he had just hatched. The little caterpillar looked around, and realized he was hungry. He began to eat. He ate first one leaf, then another, and another. Once his appetite was somewhat filled, Conlan looked around. Stretching as far as he could see were leaves and stems, flowers and stalks.

“Where am I?” little Conlan piped up.

A nearby flower heard him and responded, “You are in the magical garden. Anyone who eats from the plants growing here, or drinks from the magical stream, can then talk to anyone else who eats or grows here.”

“Wow,” responded Conlan, as he continued to gaze at all he could see. He heard a noise and looked up. Surprised, he asked, “What are those?”

“Those?” the flower laughed. “They are butterflies.”

“They are beautiful. I have never seen anything so lovely,” said the caterpillar in amazement.

The flower whispered, “Just wait and see. Someday, something special will happen to you.”

Conlan wondered what that meant, but he was too hungry to think about it much. He began to eat again.

Day after day, the caterpillar ate and ate. He grew big and chubby. He met other insects in the garden, many of whom made comments about how much the caterpillar ate, and how fast he grew. One little ant, was busily working to collect food for his colony. He said, “I am working to collect food for the winter. Are you collecting food too, or are you just eating it all?”

A ladybug that heard the comment piped in, “He just eats and eats and eats. That’s all he ever does!”

Conlan felt bad. He munched his way over to the babbling stream and looked down into it. He saw his reflection and felt even worse. “They are right. I am just a fat caterpillar. I do nothing but eat.” The caterpillar heard some fluttering above and looked up. Again, he saw a few beautiful butterflies flitting from blossom to blossom. They looked so happy and free. Conlan began to cry, big tear drops running from his chubby green face and splashing into the stream below.

Suddenly, the caterpillar heard a whisper that seemed to come from the stream itself, “Someday you will fly freely with them.”

“That could not be possible. I am always going to be nothing but a crawling caterpillar.” He began to eat more leaves, until he was tired and went to sleep.

The next morning, Conlan decided to have his breakfast over at the same plant where he hatched. He really liked the taste of those leaves and thought it might make him feel happier. He hadn’t even finished eating, though, when a thin silk thread began to come from his tail. “Now what’s this?” He exclaimed. “Now the other insects will have another reason to make fun of me. I think maybe I should just hide.”

The same flower that spoke to the newly hatched caterpillar now heard his words again. “Hold on just a minute there, little caterpillar! Don’t be so gloomy. Do you remember what I told you when we first met? I said something special would happen to you; well, now is the time! All you need to do is spin a little house for yourself and climb inside.”

“What? How can that be something special? That makes no sense to me at all.” Conlan began to crawl away, so he would not have to listen to the flower.

The flower did not give up so easily: “I have seen the cycle before, little caterpillar. Perhaps you do not understand now, but if you just trust and have confidence, you will see.”

Deep inside, the caterpillar hoped that it was true. He wanted to be something different, something unique. “I guess it would not hurt to try.” He thought. “Okay, I believe you. I will do what you suggest.”

At that, little Conlan began to spin a little cocoon. It was not easy and took him a long time to spin it around himself. Everything was dark and a little bit tight inside. He thought of maybe crawling back out, but remembered the flower’s words. He decided to believe, and he completed his spinning his little cocoon, until he was tucked safely and tightly inside. Soon, Conlan fell into a deep sleep.

When he woke up, Conlan had no idea how long he had been sleeping. One thing he knew was that he felt very uncomfortable in his little cocoon. “I must have grown even bigger while I was sleeping,” Conlan thought to himself. “Now how am I going to get out of here?”

He pushed and shoved, but realized that the cocoon he spun had grown stiff, and was not moving. It had turned into a chrysalis. He tried wriggling and moving some more, and finally broke a little hole in the hardened chrysalis. Conlan was tired, but refused to give up; he first worked hard to get that opening a bit bigger. Then he kept on pushing and twisting about until he had finally wiggled his way out of the small opening.

Having at long last made his way through, Conlan was tired. He was fairly still for a few moments, trying to regain his strength, before looking around once more. “Something seems different.” Conlan observed. He looked behind himself, and there, opening and closing gently, were two brightly-colored butterfly wings!

Conlan was too amazed to even speak. He just rested there, gazing at his new, beautiful wings.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Conlan heard a familiar voice. It was the flower that had first spoken to him, and encouraged him to have confidence. “Your wings aren’t just to look at. Come on, take off! It’s time for you to fly.”

Conlan was excited. Fly? He never thought such a thing would be possible. But now, here he was, with his very own set of wings. Conlan fluttered them up and down, and sure enough, he began to hover above the leaf on which he had been standing. He flapped them a little bit faster and rose higher than he had ever been before, to where he hovered slightly above the flower.

“Thank you,” said Conlan kindly. “You gave me such good advice and helped me to believe. I will not forget you.” The butterfly gave the flower a gentle kiss, and for once, the flower was speechless.

Conlan, the caterpillar-turned-butterfly, was thrilled. He flew up and around the tree, and flittered amongst the flowers; he hovered over the stream. Everything was even more beautiful and special from above.

Conlan saw ants busily working below, and he smiled. “If only they knew…” he thought to himself. Then he heard a sound and looked behind him. A butterfly with blue and black wings flittered up to him.

“Hi. I am Bacia. You must be new. Do you want to play?”

“Yes,” Conlan replied without a moment’s hesitation, and the two butterflies flittered off together, ready for a day of fun and adventure.

Bacia flew with Conlan to fields and parks, meadows and gardens. She taught him how to sip nectar from the flowers, and took him to the blossoms that tasted the best. She introduced him to other cheerful butterflies and he made many friends that day.

Tired and happy, Conlan returned to the magical garden that evening. The little flower who had helped him was already sleeping. “Tomorrow I will tell the flower all about my day.” He thought to himself.

As Conlan was flittering around for the best place to sleep with his newfound wings, he heard a soft sigh. He quickly found the source of the noise; it was a little caterpillar.

“What is wrong?” Conlan asked.

“Oh, nothing much. It’s just that I am nothing but a little caterpillar. Look at you; you are so beautiful with those wings, and you can fly and everything. What can I do?—nothing but eat and crawl around.”

Conlan smiled. “Just wait little one. Something very special is going to happen to you soon. I promise.”

The little caterpillar did not quite understand, but he was encouraged at the words of this kind butterfly that took notice of him. The two little creatures then curled up and went fast to sleep.

Jim Davies

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