The Struggle

img_3091.jpgMy wife never ceases to amaze me.  My children are so blessed to have her as their mother.  She is constantly attending to their needs and ever actively searching for the next learning opportunity, engaging activity, and skill developing experience she can find to help our children learn, grow, experience, and expand their understandings.

The most recent of these was the purchase of a butterfly kit.  It consisted of a few silk-weaving caterpillars in a small plastic container.  Over the coming weeks the caterpillars would weave their silk, living out their adolescent lives and eventually work their way up to the lid of the container where they would shed their outer skin as a chrysalis encasing worked it’s way up their bodies.

The transformation was exciting to watch and what it left us with was three hardened chrysalises where the caterpillars once were.  Two were hanging from the lid and one had fallen to the bottom of the container.  Already, the original count of caterpillars were down with our hope resting on these final three.

The kit included a pop-up netted enclosure for the chrysalises to be moved to as we awaited the exciting unavailing of the eventual butterflies.  The kit also included a small plastic standard where the lid of the container, chrysalises still attached, could be rested for easy viewing.

The new pop-up netting home was erected, the standard placed and the lid rested on top carefully as to ensure the two chrysalises’ safety.  A small potted flower that Mom had gotten for Mother’s Day was also inserted in to the new home and finally a small flower-looking dish, dripped with the kit included butterfly food, was placed in anticipation of the final emerging of butterflies.

All that was left now was to move the final chrysalis that had fallen to the floor.  Our concern was that it was no longer living and that becoming detached was a sign of that.  Of course, Momma wasn’t going to pick it up, so Daddy was summoned to orchestrate the move.

As I reached in, I was surprised at how hard the outer shell felt.  I gently gripped it between my pointer finger and thumb and lifted it out and rested it on the palm of my hand.  My wife then dabbed it with a cotton swab in an attempt to remove any silk that would interfere with the newly emerged butterfly.

J5 wanted to feel.  So I lowered my hand to her level and she reached out and gently dabbed the outer shell with her finger.  Suddenly the tail end of the chrysalis began flicking about wildly as a reaction to being prodded.  J5 and Momma shrieked and jumped back in surprise.  I will admit that I was quite startled as well, but luckily kept my wits about me and held my hand steady as the small chrysalis flicked and rolled about in the palm of my hand.  After the surprise of the movement settled, relief was expressed that we still had three soon-to-be butterflies resting peacefully in their new sanctuary.

Anticipation over the event built as the days pressed on.  They were checked on multiple times each day in the hopes that some new sign would appear indicating that the new butterflies would now emerge.

Finally Momma noticed one of the chrysalises turning darker and darker.  This meant that development was nearing it’s end and the butterfly would soon show itself.  Lunch was had and to her amazement at the next look there was a beautiful butterfly clinging to the netted side flicking it’s wings.

The second butterfly emerged the next day leaving only the chrysalis laying on the ground awaiting it’s turn.  Although we had seen it’s life manifested as it was moved over, there was still concern that laying on the ground it may not develop as easily as the others and that it may not make it through the transformation.

Another day passed and still only two butterflies flitted around the net-encased home.  Landing on flowers, pumping their wings, and sipping at the provided food.  They would need to be released soon so they could fly into the world, lay eggs, and beckon on the next generation.

Soon enough, that sure sign of the darkening chrysalis showed itself and silently, yet surely, the third and final butterfly emerged to join it’s comrades in adulthood.

The decision was made to release the butterflies this morning in our back yard.  It was cool out and a slow and steady breeze was blowing.  We brought the enclosure out and set it on a side table.  The top was zipped open and again Daddy was enlisted to help J5 encourage the butterflies on to her hand where it could be lifted out into the open air.

Daddy instructed J5 that she needed to be gentle.  That she couldn’t just grab and hold a butterfly because it could damage it’s fragile wings making it unable to fly.  She did a great job coaxing the first butterfly from my hand on to hers where she stood fixated on it’s small and beautifully colored wings.


Then it suddenly flapped up and launched into the air.  We all oooed and aaawwwed as it fluttered low to the ground and then landed abruptly in the grass.  Then terror struck as Daniel the cat, already hunched down at the sight of the moving object, took three strides and pounced directly onto the small, fragile, butterfly.

Of course our disapproval was voiced and he turned his head to our direction with a look of “what!?!?!” in his eyes as we briskly made our way towards the scene.  Daniel was pushed off and away and the butterfly was carefully retrieved.

It’s wings were battered and an injury to it’s abdomen was evident.  But it stood erect on my hand and pumped it’s wings a time or two.  Not knowing of anything else that could be done for this butterfly, it was placed high on a leaf and left there to rest.

The cats were chased away as the second butterfly was lifted from it’s enclosure and out into the open air by J5.  It was observed closely and then taken over to another tree and deposited safely on a high leaf.

Finally the last butterfly was lifted out.  Again it was observed closely in an attempt to take in every detail.  As J5 was hemming and hawing over where to place it, it pumped up it’s wings and launched into the air.  We watched as it flew high above our home and headed towards a tall cottonwood tree.

We could see it attempt a landing, then fly back out, again attempt another landing, and finally it disappeared into the leafed branches.  We continued to watch intently, but the  butterfly was never seen again.

We made the rounds a final time, the injured butterfly still standing strong on it’s leaf and butterfly number 2 stood contently on it’s leaf.  We said goodbye and headed into our home to attend to the morning chores with the satisfaction of releasing those simple but beautiful butterflies into their new and wide open home.

As I drove into town and began my work day, my mind kept coming back to that little injured butterfly.  Would it make it?  Would it go on to be a strong mother, or productive father?  Would it get the chance to fly high up into the sky and experience the world it had just been thrust into?

Then I suddenly wondered if it was the butterfly that emerged from the chrysalis that had become detached and laid on the ground.  It had to fight through being a caterpillar and was the last to encase itself only to become detached and fall to the ground.  It was the last to be moved to it’s new home where it had to be cleaned of the silk mess it had fallen into.  It was then laid on the ground where, again, the last of it’s group, it had to fight it’s way out of it’s encasing on the ground rather than having the advantage of hanging from the lid.  Finally, feeling the freedom of flying through the air, it was pounced on by a predator and left to sit alone on a leaf to recover.  Wings damaged, injured and hurting, would it be able to fight on again?  Would it make it?  Was that it’s lot in life, to struggle on every single day?

When compared to the other two; one flying away strong and vibrant, ready to move on to the next step easily with the other sitting healthy and strong on a leaf, taking it’s time and choosing when it was ready to go; this butterfly seems to have drawn the short straw.

I reflected back on a show that my wife presented as part of this butterfly experience.  It stood out to me that a female butterfly will lay 300 eggs in its life.  Of those 300 eggs, only 1% will survive to adulthood.  Those odds just aren’t that great.  As I think on that 1%, I considered this damaged and broken butterfly.  It made it because it was willing to fight on even though it seemed to have constantly been dealt a bad hand.  Would that percentage be even less if some weren’t prepared to fight through the struggle?

With it’s damaged wings, it’s broken and bruised parts, it has a choice.  It can give up and let the odds win or it can fight on and prove the odds wrong.  All three butterflies may survive through their adulthood.  All three may fly far and wide, seeing a portion of the world in all it’s glory and wonder.  All three may fulfill their calling of becoming father’s or mother’s to a new generation of beautiful butterflies.  But of the three, who will gain the most satisfaction from those accomplishments?  The ones who had it easy, or the one that struggled and fought every step of the way?

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”

-Sigmund Freud

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