Monday, September 20, 2010
Caterpillars are Making Me Do Observation Push Ups
Our parsley patch has been inundated by Black Swallowtail caterpillars. The other day we brought a few into the house so we could watch them all day. We bought a live parsley plant, put it in a giant glass jar covered with a screen, and further removed the need for TV.
It’s funny what you can see when you train your eyes to look for something new. Each day we’ve learned so much about these caterpillars not from the Internet but from seeing them live their lives on our dining room table. We observe how they eat a leaf in surprisingly fast neat little rows. We watch them change color and shape as they devour entire plants in a matter of days.
One by one we’re watching each caterpillar go through its final molt, climb onto a branch, curl up into a tight apostrophe connected to the branch by a single silk thread, and like magic transform into a papery green chrysalis. It feels like a miracle every minute – so I have to keep reminding myself that what I am seeing is just life.
We are waiting for wings. But it is hard to imagine these caterpillars that have become so much a part of our family will emerge into such different creatures after they complete their change.
Watching this lifecycle so intimately each day has changed the way I see a lot of things. Strengthening the observation muscle, even outside the realm of the classroom, still makes it stronger in that context. With a group of students last week I swear I saw their eyes, their body language, heard their voices, felt their energy, just that much more.
I am seeing the potential for butterfly transformations everywhere. The world is quite a wonderful place when viewed through the lens of wonder.