Learning to Fly
They had been in their chrysalises so long we were starting to think they were dead.
Have you ever watched a butterfly be born?
We did, over breakfast.
After this mammoth transformation, they emerge, leaving their old skins behind – brittle and transparent. And they stand, still, carefully, wings still wet from the imaginal soup. Like spring leaves they unfurl. Stillness subsides into tiny tremors, then bigger shaking, and finally flutters. Slowly, slowly the caterpillar is inhabiting its new form.
And as the wings get bigger and flatter, stillness reigns once more.
We opened the cage. It was full of butterflies which had hatched earlier in the day. They were crawling up and down the net.
We blew at one which was perched at the top of the cage. Nothing between it and freedom but a flap of its wings. It resisted. I poked its legs gently. It kicked back. The children tried. It kicked them too.
And then it just stood there. Why isn’t it flying? The children wanted to know. Because it doesn’t know it can. I replied.It never has before, and it has no reason to think it can now. It probably still thinks its a caterpillar, cos that’s what it’s always been. Only we can see it’s a butterfly.
And with that, a small gust of wind unsettled it. It flapped… and flew… only a few halting flaps,.. and onto a child’s hair.
A little nudge and up it went again… up, up, up into the blue sky… you could almost hear its tiny butterfly voice – I can fly. I can FLLLLLLLYYYYY!!!! Lads, look, look… we can FLLLYYYYYY!
We think of butterflies as free… but in fact when they are new born, they are cautious. They cling to people and flowers. Earth-bound.
And you know the twist in the tale, the moral of the story that I’m getting out, dear dreamer. That’s right. You aren’t the little grub you thought you were… you can FLLLLLLLYYYYY… so why not test those wings?