As a young mother years ago, I came across a great number of children’s books. As I read them to my sons during their early years, I began to build my very own list of favourites: Dr Seuss, Eric Carle, I Spy series by Marzollo/Wick, Don Freeman’s Corduroy. And others.
Among all my favourites, one stood out: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Mr Carle, thank you for the story, the illustrations, the colours, and above all, the bite holes on the pages! I still remember the precious moments when my sons Blake and Jeremy poked through each of the holes on the pages with their tiny fingertips in the 1990s.
Fast forward to Year 2020, a year that will be remembered by all of us as the year of pandemic-triggered unprecedented deaths, illness, and social lockdowns around the world. Our Next Normal. With lockdown and Work From Home, I found myself homebound here in Leander, Texas, a small suburb north of Austin, the Texas hill countries.
The world as we knew it before from travel and commuting, restaurants and shopping for essentials and non-essentials has done a complete turnaround. I found myself potting herbs and plants on my newly constructed deck overlooking the neighbouring hills and the amazing Texas sky in most mornings and evenings. A welcome new routine.
While watering my herbs and plants recently, I noticed that there were round holes on the mint leaves, a dead giveaway that a creature had been munching on my herbs! A few minutes later, I looked up on the potted parsleys and noticed something unusual.
On close inspection, I discovered a new visitor—a beautiful yellow-dotted, black and light green ringed creature with eight legs, a worm hanging onto one of the branches of potted parsleys. A city slicker, I have read about caterpillars but have never had such a close encounter. He seemed to have sensed my presence and held still as I was amazed by his presence. It was less than an inch long at the time.
I shared the amazing find and photos on social media and quickly got alerted by a friend, “Watch for the butterfly!” My neighbour and hiking buddy Kate quickly looked up and told me that it would morph into a Monarch. OMG, is it possible that I am playing a small part of saving an endangered species, the amazing Monarch?
I couldn’t contain my excitement. I told everyone—remotely of course—about my Caterpillar, a very hungry caterpillar. On the second day, I hunted down Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, read it page by page, touched the holes on the pages in between visits with Caterpillar. I even took photos of Caterpillar with Carle’s book in front of him. It was simply too precious.
You see, during the many moves we had made over the years (and yes as an IBMer, I’ve Been Moved), I have saved and stored a few of my favourite children’s books. It’s about the sentiment, the stories, the memories, and the classics. I haven’t thought of the possibility of scenes from these books coming alive years later.
For the last five days, I received great pleasure visiting Caterpillar every morning, afternoon and evening. I took photos after photos to document the progress in total awe of his beauty, and Nature at work in front of me. I looked at the missing parsley leaves and branches, saying to Caterpillar, ‘Great job, eat away!”
Mr Carle was right. “On Monday, he ate through… On Tuesday… On Wednesday… but he was still hungry…”
On the fourth morning of my discovery of Caterpillar, while about one-tenths of my parsleys was gone, Caterpillar had more than doubled its size, longer, rounder, and even more beautiful. By now, I couldn’t resist visiting Caterpillar multiple times a day. Later that morning, I saw what Wikipedia said he would do, shedding its skin while posted in a “J” shape amidst the parsley leaves. He’s about to grow again!
That evening, I had a huge disappointment. I went to the deck, eager to see what Caterpillar was up to. I looked and looked and looked but in vain. He’s not there anymore! Could it be that he had slowly crawled out of the pot and found himself a spot to cocoon like Wikipedia says he would? Could it just be he’s hiding from me as I was overexposing him? Could it be…
One thing I know for certain, “He wasn’t hungry anymore, and he wasn’t a little caterpillar any more. He was a big, fat caterpillar,” as Carle put it. Maybe, just maybe, he will build “a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He will stay inside for more than two weeks before he would nibble a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and…”
He will become a beautiful butterfly! Dare to Grow, Caterpillar.