And God Bless the Caterpillars by Tasha Halpert

And God Bless the Caterpillars

LLisa's butterfly My dandelion headed five-year-old is saying his prayers. He includes the caterpillars in their jars on the window sill. We had filled the jar with what we hoped was the appropriate leaves for food and twigs to climb, and each night we prayed for them. The time was 1968, and my son was one of five, active bright friendly loving children.

The caterpillars munched, spun cocoons on the twigs, and were quiet. We waited in vain for butterflies to emerge. Together we concluded that caterpillars did not do well in captivity and perhaps it was better for them to go free. Lessons on many levels were learned from the experience. I don’t know whether my son remembers the caterpillars, but he is now a grown man with a strong sense of curiosity, a fine capacity for observation and a desire to do some good in the world. The eager child lives on in the man.

One day the family visited someone who had guinea pigs. Naturally the children were fascinated and the pet shop that sold us our first pair agreed to buy back progeny. I was delighted at the opportunity to give the children a first hand lesson in biology, and all went well until we elected to do a breeding experiment. Unfortunately our breeding program coincided with a glut of guinea pigs at the pet shop. My living room filled up with boxes holding a total of fifteen furry squeakers and any time the refrigerator door opened, a chorus of squeals filled the house.

In the process my oldest daughters found out first hand that one cannot always rely on original solutions but must plan for contingencies, and of course they had graphic experience in where babies come from! Now that they have had their own children, they have fostered the same sense of adventure in their offspring and have carried on the same love affair with nature.

Nature is a great teacher of many things, and the care with which it is arranged has a significant message for us. We are part of the cycles of emergence, growth, and return to the whole. We circulate life energy the way a tree does. Once we believed we were in charge but this conviction is eroding with our recognition of the results of that belief. Our attunement to the part we play in the natural order of life seems to me to be more important than ever to our growth as healthy, positive human beings.

Parenting seems best learned by experience. Children are resilient. With goodwill, grace and good luck most of us will succeed in raising well adjusted children. Doing what we most enjoyed with our youngsters often results in happiness for all, but observing and participating in the processes of nature can easily and quickly return us to the joys of childhood as well as bring us pleasure in the present.

Looking together at snowflake crystals, searching for seashells, tenderly weeding small gardens—the days of my companionship with my children are cherished memories. I learned as much from them as they did from me. Nature is a great teacher and I am grateful to her for the lessons I learned as well as the beauty I have received. I am proud, too, of my children for their positive attitudes and approach to life, much of which was learned at Mother Nature’s knee. And I say with my son, God bless the caterpillars, God bless them all.