the life cycle of butterflies

a selection from our new book

March 30, 2008

My first and last biology class was in junior high school exactly 40 years ago.  Other than it confirming my distaste for animals and lack of interest in plants, I also remember something about the life cycle of butterflies and moths.  They evolve through four diverse stages with the same individual taking on completely different appearance and behavior with each passage.  Finally, they graduate to the most beautiful, the adult stage, when they show off their wings, flying precariously in summer sunshine over meadows and through deep green forests.  I wished, as an overweight and socially clumsy 13 year old, that I could hope for such a makeover sometime in my future, emerging into a life of physical beauty and freedom (from 8th grade biology among other oppressions).  I suppose that desire, the aesthetic appeal of these animals, and their freedom to fly aimlessly outdoors with no apparent destination or motivation other than to play, imprinted them, just a little, on my psyche.

But there is another reason my 13 year old self was impressed by their story.  It was not so much their designs, colors and flight, as the dissonant tragedy that can go hand-in-hand with their hard-earned maturation, and with it, the freedom to fly.  Some of the species, upon achieving their adult phase, can no longer eat.  Each individual lives for only a few weeks or at most months, burning up fuel stored during earlier lives.

Apparently the inevitability of their end doesn’t inhibit them.  Maybe it even motivates them to fascinate us, to brighten our world, and for the time that they have, to make more of living than without them we would ever know.

As you know, Nancy has not eaten in about 6 days – excepting Diet Coke, a little cran-grape juice and grape flavored shaved ice.  Last night, she and Karen watched some DVDs together.  Nancy and I spend our time, the time when she has the energy and focus, talking, watching clips on her Mac, even laughing.  It is, it has been these last few days, weeks, months, in many ways the life we probably always wanted,  one we didn’t have.  A life being together, without focus on work, a construction of a future, the mortgage and the money we should be saving for the time we might no longer be able to work.  A life orbiting just around ourselves.


One Response to “the life cycle of butterflies”

  1. Bill Grabert Says:

    Rick, I have been out of touch so long. I was wondering what you were up to and found this post. I am afraid of what this post means. If you see this, please send me a note and tell me about Nancy.

    Bill in Davis, CA

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