Butterflies and caterpillars have been providing sparks of light for me this summer and I've been more aware than usual of their presence.
When I saw this very hungry caterpillar this past spring, it took a little research to figure out it was a black swallowtail caterpillar. I moved it from the brussels sprouts to the dill and it seemed much happier, but after a day or two it disappeared, perhaps into a chrysalis or perhaps to provide nourishment for a passing bird.
About a week later, I took a photograph of the unknown caterpillar below. As I was trying to learn a little more about the life cycle of black swallowtails recently, I realized that this is also likely a black swallowtail caterpillar, only at an earlier stage. Its fate is also unknown.
Perhaps this rather battle-worn black swallowtail butterfly feasting on my zinnia nectar is a descendant.
And the caterpillar below is the reason for the renewed interest in swallowtail life cycles. I found him last week while clearing a section of the garden in preparation for winter. This one I carried on to our screened-in porch, and provided with dill and parsley. I hoped to see it enter the chrysalis stage, and perhaps a diapause -- the extended time in the chrysalis stage that the late season caterpillars enter, resting in the chrysalis through the winter, emerging when the weather is again warm enough for them to thrive.
It hadn't done so by Monday, when we were getting ready to leave for several days. So I put it out in our parsley patch and hope that it will enter a chrysalis soon. I'll check the herb bed when we get back, but I've read that swallowtail chrysalis are notoriously hard to spot. I imagine that, as with so many encounters in life, this is a story whose unfolding I will never know, though I shared in it for a brief time. Blessings on your journey, little caterpillar. May you eat well and find rest and transformation.
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"
I've taken on a prayer practice of looking for the moments of light in each day, whether actual or metaphorical, and then writing or posting photos of what I find.