by Flora Brooke, CSW Associate
On a lovely day this spring, I took a peaceful visit to Bullington Gardens in Hendersonville, N.C. I wandered down the winding trails, in awe of the blooming azaleas and dogwoods. “Enchanting” was the word that danced in the core of my heart while surrounded by the beauty and wonder of the gardens.
Turning a bend in the path, I encountered a clever piece of art. From one angle, it was a painting of a caterpillar. But if you stand a few feet to the right, you now see a butterfly. Chuckling to myself, I shifted a few feet to the left, a few feet to the right, the image melting back and forth between the caterpillar and the butterfly. It occurred to me how lovely both paintings were, each charming and captivating in their own way.
When studying metamorphosis in elementary school, we hear of the drab caterpillar munching its chubby way along, entering its cocoon, and emerging as a wondrously beautiful butterfly. This whole narrative centers on the miracle of transforming into a beautiful creature, therefore negating the beauty of the caterpillar itself. But gazing at the mural in Bullington Gardens, I could not—and would never desire to deny—the caterpillar’s beauty.
This visit to the Gardens was less than a week after Easter, and images of the Resurrection were still floating around in my mind. Parallels between a butterfly emerging from a dark cocoon and Jesus returning from the dead abound. Easter is a season to celebrate the beauty of Jesus rising from the dead, but what of his pre-crucifixion, caterpillar-like life? Growth is so much more than the climatic moment of revealing a glorious transformation. We are lovely beings from our moment of conception in the twinkle of God’s eye to the release of our last breath, wherever on our journey that breath may occur. It was true of Jesus, and is true of all people. We are in a constant state of becoming, and what we have already become is marvelous.
My year with the Blue Ridge Service Corps has been a time of growth. I am deeply grateful for the ways I have grown and changed this year. My inner caterpillar has been fed countless tasty leaves. Yet as I appreciate the more thoughtful and independent caterpillar I have become, I lovingly look back on the beautiful caterpillar I was when first coming to western North Carolina in August of last year. I may be stronger now, but I was not weak then. I may reflect more now, but I was not oblivious then. Perhaps there is no such thing as improvement, no such thing as “better,” but only change. And for that I am grateful. In a world fixated on becoming magnificent butterflies, I am peacefully content as a magnificent caterpillar.
photo by Flora Brooke