You step outside one mid-May morning and spy a green chrysalis hanging off the vinyl siding of your yellow house.
And you wanna say, “How’s it hanging?”
You’d been keeping an eye on the monarch caterpillar curling beneath its silk tether for days, and now it has disappeared inside a whorled green case.
Fun fact: the black attachment thingy is called a cremaster. First the caterpillar weaves a white button using mouth juices, then it circles around, positioning its rear end just so, and extends the cremaster. More at: Monarch Larvae Attaching to its Silk Pad
Eleven days later, you step outside to taste the morning air and discover that the chrysalis has darkened. You lean in and realize it is actually translucent, revealing the butterfly within.
An hour later, a monarch butterfly has emerged from the bottom of the chrysalis and is drying its wings. You wonder if it remembers its life as a caterpillar just as you have wondered if humans remember their pre-emergence lives.
You spot another wet-winged newborn clinging to a miniature dahlia.
They are precocious little guys with faces only a mother could love, already using their stick-like black limbs as if they’ve been walking all their lives.
Now here is one straddling a miniature dahlias.
How you want to ask them what they are thinking. “What,” you want to say, “does the world feel like—taste like—to a baby butterfly?”
An hour passes, and their wings are firm enough to open wide.
You hover, lips tucked in like an anxious parent. Will they fly soon? Will they be all right? One launches itself into the crepe myrtles. Minutes later, another flops into the lily pond.
You fish the baby monarch out, feeling like a hero, happy you chose to put aside your chores and wait until their fate was out of your hands.
You read that they’ll come through again when the weather cools, lay their eggs on the same plants they grew fat upon as caterpillars, and that those new butterflies will migrate south and back north to start the cycle over again next spring.