“I’ve never heard such tosh!” blustered Luna, the moth. “What are you thinking?”
The Winged Council for the Betterment of Butterflies gathered for their annual meeting in an emerald forest, sweet with shade and dappled in sunlight. Above the clearing, high in the trees, sat birds of various kinds, watching the turn of events with interest.
“Metamorphosis is taking far too long,” said Miranda Birdwing, her vast wingspan opening and closing for effect. “Simply too long. The quicker the caterpillars turn into butterflies, the better for all of us.”
“How do you work that out, Miranda? Better how? And how, in the name of sweet nectar, do you propose we speed it up?”
The Winged Council loved their larvae and only wanted the best for them. They worried that each day spent as a caterpillar was a day they were more at risk from the birds. They meant well. But many were troubled.
Miranda Birdwing folded her wings and drew herself up tall. “We must be bold.”
And with those words, a new school began and its first students chosen.
The unchosen ones lounged and grew fat in the sun; their skin grew thick and their bodies tough.
The ones not included in the new school continued to explore the bushes, branches, and twigs; their muscles stretched, flexed, and grew strong.
The ones left behind tasted leaves of a hundred different plants and taught their brains to seek out the best. They learnt to avoid bushes already taken by others and share what the forest offered.
The caterpillars chosen to benefit from the bold beginnings programme were ushered to a hollow log, where their wings were artificially attached. These were heavy for the little recruits, but with painstaking practice, they could steady them and, when pushed off high places, could glide – like they were flying but not quite – and land safely on the ground.
Imagine- baby caterpillars taking to the air so young! What days!
The birds, however, looked on bemused. Didn’t the butterflies know that this is not how it happens? That when it is Time, it is Time?
But, alas, they didn’t. And the birds watched as the butterflies patted each other congratulatory on their backs. Winged creatures from every council, moth, mayfly and bee, came to see this monumental feat and cheat of development. Many were impressed, although some were uneasy.
The birds watched and waited.
Soon enough, it was Time. The caterpillars, who had no wings, with their thick skin, nourished bodies; knowledge of the woods and skills of the ground, cocooned themselves to await The Process. They knew, even if they didn’t understand, that this is the way ‘things’ happen.
The ones that flew early began to settle down together. They felt glorious, and they already knew a little of what awaited. They trembled proudly with the excitement of what was to come.
The cocooning, however, did not come. It could not cope with the enormous wings that were good for gliding yet had no life of their own. The caterpillars pushed and willed the swaddling to continue but could not tuck their dratted wings in tight. Their bodies were too weak, and their wings were so stiff. In annoyance, they jostled against each other, struggling for space, but in the end, they had to give up. They laid there exhausted on the leaves.
The Process never came, and, after a time, the birds flew down and ate them up. The others, safely encased, swayed with patience and expectant being.
You can’t attach wings to a caterpillar and call it a butterfly.
These things take Time. There is a Time for everything.
And not before.