Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Season in the Life of a Worm

I wish I had a picture to include here, but I think it is too early for many worms to be found outdoors. I wrote this the other day, having fun getting into the worldview of a little creature. I would heartily recommend the practice! It is great for giving perspective during the midst of our ever-busy lives. Here is the story:

Epic Journey of a Lowly Worm

The shiny round egg case split down the center and a small white worm wiggled out onto the underside of a boxelder leaf. There was a faint warm breeze that lifted the leaf heavenward, and as if propelled by gravity, the worm crawled earthward, toward the base of the plant, and then slowly made its way toward the ground. This was a journey with frequent stops to nibble on the supporting foliage. Or rather, it was a continuous meal, leaving a pale eaten-away path aiming down, the destination less important than the nourishing process.

The worm was gradually taking on the color of his green dinner, or was it breakfast? This may be the beginning of one never-ending meal. It was becoming evident to this brand new lifeform that its sole purpose appeared to be nothing but eating, a continual green bash from leaf to leaf. The worm was also aware of other things: the filtered sun warming its skin, the breeze, the patches of brightness and of shadow. As the afternoon advanced toward evening, the little creature became filled with purpose, an inclination toward growth, an instinctive passion to some high calling.

And so the days went by, from leaf to leaf, often in sun, but sometimes in rain with the worm gripping snugly to the underside of his current foodstuff so as not to slide to the ground. The worm could feel an outward thrust in its body and it had a sense that something different was perhaps just around the corner. Weeks went by, and the worm was many times its original size, a mighty warrior among others of its kind, eating its way to fulfillment.

And then one day it stopped. The worm happened to be on a tender petal at the center of a geranium flower. This halt in the endless quest for food was not planned. It happened as if a sudden culmination to  an epic journey was reached, and it was time to wait for instructions. Then slowly this large caterpillar inched over the edge of the flowerhead towards a strong dark green leaf a few inches away, affixed itself in place, and began to transform. This took complete surrender. It took the ability to be still and wait for new and mysterious internal processes to take hold. It took the ability to let go of all the personal wishes an adult worm might have developed: finding a tasty leaf, a place in the sunlight or shade, a dewdrop caught in the crease of a grass blade. But the caterpillar was capable of yielding to this higher authority, and as it rested on the leaf in the lee of the wind, its body began to change. Gradually all hunger ceased and the whole world seemed suspended. A thick, hard casing began to form in place of skin, and the body inside began its transit from one state of being to another.

Days went by. Weeks. The casing turned brown, then black. It sometimes waved in the wind, sometimes caught raindrops as they blew under the host plant. Yet the casing holding the former worm did not show any movement, any life. It was still. If there had been watchers, waiting for something to happen, they would have long since given up by the time transformation, the final act, was at hand.

It happened one morning, the sun already above the crest of the hill and warming the air. There was little fanfare at first, only an occasional jerk in the chrysalis generated from inside. And inside the crisp walls, the former worm was waking, stretching, beginning to be aware of new life flooding through it. It felt an urgent need to reach out. Just the act of reaching was an astonishing move, an entirely new concept. The casing began to give way and gradually a crumpled, bedazzled newborn something emerged. The breeze fanned its head, the sun warmed its back, and wings slowly, painstakingly unfurled to each side of its body. The lowly, courageous worm was gone without a trace. And within minutes, a breathtaking vision of color and flight took to the air. Transformation.

It is all around us in this season of rebirth, and within us as well, if we can take lessons from the small creatures at our feet.

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