The Christmas Caterpillar

On Christmas day, I rescued a caterpillar. He (or she) was crawling slowly across my family room carpet. What in the world? In December? It’s freezing outside! Shouldn’t you be somewhere south where it’s warm? And what do butterflies do in the winter?

I couldn’t bear to put it outside, certain it would meet a very quick and chilly end. So, reminded of the many, many, many caterpillars of my youth that came to live in a coffee can in my room, I encouraged the little orange and black fuzzy creature into a plastic bin using a tissue near at hand.

The Christmas caterpillar in his new winter home.

The Christmas caterpillar in his new winter home.

He – we’ll call him he, not knowing any better – was lethargic and, I was sure, nearly dead. But not yet. I broke off a few sprigs of an indoor plant and set it next to the white Puffs tissue that enclosed him. A yellow juice container became his water bowl. He was not moving.

Later, I found him in (yes, floating, drowned?) the water, so I dumped him back into the tissue, which mopped up the moisture. I was certain that I had killed him. But no. He just moved further inside the tissue. Can’t blame him.

Days go by. I go away to a conference and come home. He is still there. Has moved only slightly. Certainly his end is near, but there is still life.

We go away for a holiday. Return to several inches of snow on the ground and freezing, freezing temperatures. Poor caterpillar, I can’t even offer him a reasonable burial now.

I leave him alone, in peace. One day he has climbed up the side of the plastic bin. Poor guy. A final escape attempt foiled by the lid. He is dried and has lost his color. Some meager strings run across his body as if a spider invader has sealed the deal. (I had to crack the top to let in some air!)

It’s still too cold to bury him outside, but we are expecting a thaw. Then, then I will have a small funeral for my Christmas companion.

This morning this greets me…

He has emerged!

He has emerged!

My first thought. How could such a large flying object have invaded the caterpillar’s plastic bin?! Then I realize, this is Christmas, transformed.

He has made his way up to the top, so I open the lid to the morning. He remains, content to stay a bit longer.  He’ll fly away when he’s ready.

Welcome back!

Welcome back!


About wlebolt

Life comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.

Posted on February 4, 2014, in Body, Cool Science, Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. For the record: Apparently, if you find a Christmas caterpillar, you should resist keeping it in your warm living room and set it out in the cold where it will cocoon itself and stay that way until spring. THEN when it hatches, a warm sunny day will greet it. Now, I am told I must feed my new Christmas gift sugary water from a sponge until …Easter. Seems about right.

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