Josie was a happy caterpillar. She spent all day tiptoeing her many legs across leafy green. She enjoyed how some leaves tickled her with their tiny hairs, while on others she could simply slide.
She sampled the varied leaves. She lunched on smooth shiny ones. She snacked on crisp zesty ones. She dined with some friends, nibbling the canopy above her for a better view of the setting sun. For breakfast, she ate her pillow, soft and succulent.
One day, as she was enjoying a post-brunch stroll, she noticed a friend.
“What are you doing, Francis?” she called curiously.
“I’m building my cocoon, so that I can take a long nap and wake up with wings.”
“Wings? Why would you want those? Winged creatures are always in such a rush. They don’t appreciate the solid earth, and are always searching for some new thing, some new direction the wind might take them. Why would you want that stress?”
“Josie, don’t you know? I’m a caterpillar, and so are you. But now it is time for me to transform and become a moth. When the time is right, you will transform too.”
“Time to stop enjoying my leaves and leisure? Doubtful.” She shook her head and perched several legs on her hips to emphasize her disagreement. She shut her eyes to show she did not want to hear more. But when she opened them and looked at Francis for a response, she saw that his face had been replaced by tiny silver threads. She poked him gently. He wiggled in response, but had nothing more to say on the matter.
“Well. No wings, and already he’s in too much of a rush to properly finish a conversation.”
She picked up her many feet one by one, and continued her search for something green and delicious.
“Wings? Really?” She thought as she walked. “These legs take me anywhere I want to go. And there are more leaves here than I could ever hope to digest.”
The afternoon warmth turned to chilly dusk. Josie pulled some leaves around her close for warmth. She wished for something even tighter as her eyes grew heavy. She let herself fall into what she knew would be a deep, deep sleep.
Josie woke feeling refreshed, though slightly damp. She smiled at the sunlight peeking through leaves and stretched her legs: one, two, three, four, five, six…
She let out her wings to soak up the sunlight. Wait. Wings? And where were her other legs? Could this be true?
Shocked at her transformation, she batted her wings slowly. Open, close. Open, close. After some time, thanking the sun for not rushing her, she moved forward on her new legs. She tasted a nearby leaf with her tongue. Ugh. What she remembered as a delicious pre-bed snack now felt bitter on her small tongue. She craved something sweet. But she refused to let her wings change her leisurely pace. She enjoyed the feel of balancing along a leaf stem. She enjoyed feeling each of her—now six—legs under her, and their connection to something solid.
She moved forward at a familiar crawl, searching for something that would be more pleasing to her new tongue. As she walked, she took in the sights. Bumble bees, birds, mosquitoes and flies flew above her, moving with some unknown purpose that she preferred not to share. She continued along, lifting one leg at a time.
After awhile, she noticed a spider sitting gracefully in her web. Josie stood a moment to admire the intricate details from a distance, thinking as she did: “Winged creatures move too fast to notice the everyday beauty around them.”
Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted when a small fly dove into the web. The spider immediately jumped to the fly, and began wrapping a silky thread around it. Soon it was covered entirely, and the spider returned to a corner of her web as Josie reflected on what she saw.
Josie batted her wings gently as she replayed the encounter in her mind.
“Of course!” She thought excitedly. She knew what the spider’s silky thread reminded her of: Francis’s cocoon! It was all so clear to her now. Here, she was not the only winged creature who wished for more legs and a slower pace of moving. The spider could make her a cocoon, and after a nap, she would wake again, having reversed the transformation and returned to her cherished life as a care-free caterpillar.
With new determination, but still refusing to use her wings, Josie traced a possible path up to the spider’s web with her eyes. She started moving, one leg at a time, so pleased with her new discovery.
After her climb, Josie ventured one leg onto the soft silky thread. But when she tried to lift it and move forward, she realized the surface was tremendously sticky. She shook her leg, and became more stuck.
The spider scuttled to her quickly and cut the threads attached to Josie’s legs, scolding, “You will break my web. You are far too big!”
“Oh, no. Please, Spider. Please. I want you to make me a cocoon so that I can take a long nap and wake up as a caterpillar again. Please, won’t you help?”
The spider laughed softly. “I don’t make cocoons, young one. I make dinner. Once I wrap my prey in silk, I can drink all their delicious blood. But you are far too large for me to eat. So let me give you some advice. Jump. Open your wings, and don’t look back. It is true that in life are changes. Some are drastic, and make us wish for what was before, what was familiar. But there are changes you can’t control. When those changes happen, you move forward, and you let changes change you. Never forgetting, of course, where you’ve been. Not necessarily having a clear idea of where you are going. But knowing that to continue LIVING, we need to embrace the present, look towards the future, and move forward.”
Josie was shocked. She had been so wrong. Of course, she was not angry at the spider, who needed to eat. Her body was designed for wrapping flies and drinking their blood. Josie’s body was hungry, too. She wanted something sweet. Not knowing how to respond to this sage spider, Josie stood unmoving for a time. Then she replayed the words: “Jump. Move forward. Don’t look back.” She breathed deeply, pressed her six legs into solidness. And jumped.
I wrote this story sitting up in a strangler fig near CEC during my last week in Monteverde. I was processing a pretty difficult transition. In my original concept, the caterpillar died. My brother thought that concept would appeal to hipsters, and I thought it was somewhat Grimm's fairy tale-esque. But since I felt myself relating to the caterpillar, I decided to explore another possibility. I did confirm that some moth cocoons are silky like a spider wrapping its prey, though I want to share this with folks from the Butterfly Garden to get some expert input.