Reverse metamorphosis


I may never have been one of these gorgeous creatures, but I’m pretty sure I used to have wings many, many years ago. At least I felt like I could fly, and I sure used to feel certain in my ability to navigate and my freedom to do so. I never felt stunning, or even very colorful, but I know there were bright spots on my wings that helped me soar on the winds.

The main color was duty-blue, the slightly metallic light blue of reliably high results on anything that had to do with learning . That layer of color started to fade around the edges when school ended and work started, and I realized that after the initial six weeks or so, any job became incredibly predictable, brain-dead and boring.


Then there were the transparent spots of my singing, those that were not discovered until I was an adult, and even then never really polished. But they gave me joy, and every once in a while, someone would blow a little speck of glowing pink over those transparent spots, making them shimmer after a rare solo performance. I’m confident those transparently pink spots shone brightly when my choir came second in the national championship, but then, just a few months later, the conductor bought out the magnifying glass that showed inconsistencies in hue and saturation, ending my singing days and joys, and removing all the color from that part of me.


I used to be proud of the intense purple fields of public speaking skills, having been proven, time and again, as excellent at this, and I enjoyed the opportunities I got. Now it’s been so long since the last time I spellbound an audience that I have to count telling stories to children in order to keep my purple polished. At least I know my stories are appreciated, and I have fun telling them, so someone taking a closer look may see traces of purple left, even as the wings folded into my body as I retreated into my cocoon.

In the cocoon, I feel almost safe, even if I’m torn between the desire to flitter around outside and the knowledge that there are horrible perils out there. Winds blew me off course so many times, people touched my wings and hurt me, those flying higher and faster tried to gobble me up, those without wings tried to tie me down and make me crawl. There were rains, and cold, cold nights out there. In the cocoon, I am warm and sheltered. But it’s so lonely in here!


I know I have to chew my way through this cocoon soon, I think I have actually started making the hole that will eventually permit my huge, grey, wiggly body to creep out into the sunshine and show off all those spiky grey hairs that will make anyone who sees me go: “Eugh!” and shy away. Anyone,  except those shining birds that prey on larvae like me. Those that fly so high that it hurt your eyes if you try to follow their flight. Those that show off their plumage and skills with every turn of their wing. Those I used to feel so drawn to, hoping their glory would rub off on me. I am so very vulnerable to them.

But a larva out of its cocoon is vulnerable to everything and everybody. So easily hurt that even the thought of possible injury is painful. My larva self is intensely aware of every sensation; every sound, every smell, every movement, every taste and every visual image leaves strong impressions. While the observer may be excused for thinking I do not move, my thoughts and emotions run through several roller coasters at once, sometimes going in opposite directions simultaneously.  What happens inside is invisible, even if the outside is starkly ugly.


I know I am not alone in this tree, there are a handful of other larvae on other branches. We bother all the ants, getting in their way, being too big, too different, to difficult to deal with. They walk all over us without missing a step, apparently that is normal behavior for ants. So is ganging up, every once in a while, to try to push one of us out of the tree. I’ve been hanging by the thin silky line several times, but always made it back to the branch. I just feel more insecure every time, and more lonely.

The other day, I saw that there is a cocoon in a tree a little ways off, one that a butterfly has returned to, anti-metamorphosized to the vulnerable larva stage, and then crawled back into the cocoon to re-metamorphosize into a slightly different butterfly. The butterfly is staying close to the cocoon, needing the option to dive for safety because it is not yet strong enough to brave all the ants, birds, winds and rains. Once in a while, the butterfly opens its wings, allowing me to see the stunning blue color, but it only ever happens when the ants are far away.


I know now that this present state of mine is but temporary. I will become a butterfly again. My wings will be strong and colorful, and I will take to the skies like I belong. I will land on beautiful flowers and suck up their nectar, and then move on to the next attraction. Winds will buffet me, sending me somewhere I did not plan to go. There, I may find hostile lands, or even seas, or I might find bounty and beauty, sun and other butterflies like myself. Butterflies of that extremely rare breed, the one that constantly anti-metamorphosizes and re-metamorphosizes, emerging slightly different in different surroundings, but always, always standing out. Always looking different. Almost always alone. Yet mostly beautiful, even as a nymph, due to the potential that can always be glimpsed if one lets go of some preconceived notions and just allows oneself to look for the good.

All pictures from


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