Thursday, October 1, 2009


:food for monarch caterpillars

The caterpillar that B found only ate one type of leaf: milkweed. How B sensed this, I will never know. But when she brought him home from a yard down the street, she brought a few leaves of milkweed. She placed these leaves in a jar. When he finished them, I suggested a few leaves from the trees in our yard because I didn't want her to continue to scavenge leaves from a neighbor. She acquiesced, but said, "I think he might only eat the leaves he was on when I found him." We quickly found out she was right. Artie wouldn't touch maple or oak leaves. So B went down the street for more milkweed and Artie chowed down - eating two or three leaves daily, which is a lot considering he was smaller than my pinkie.

What I found most interesting about the monarch caterpillar's predilection for milkweed is that the leaf is poisonous to other creatures. Artie knew what he could and couldn't eat. He knew exactly what he needed to consume to turn into a monarch butterfly instead of a monarch caterpillar. It didn't matter to him that it was a weed. He didn't decide he needed a more gourmet diet of arugula, spinach or wilted greens. He knew what he needed to do and did it.

So I've been thinking about what I need that might be poisonous (OK, maybe just distasteful) to others and whether I am swayed by what others need instead of listening to my own mind, my own body, my own soul.

One thing that I need more than many people is solitude. I have done a terrible job of protecting my time and therefore protecting my energy. When I spend a lot of time around other people, I am drained, depleted and exhausted. I know this about myself. But I feel pressure to volunteer at school, at church, at Rejoice. For things both important and unimportant to me. I am a little better at saying NO than I used to be, but my guilt over saying no has increased this year because, for the first time in three years, I am again unemployed. While I am enjoying not working for pay, I feel a self-imposed pressure to exhibit productivity. It was easier to say no to helping during a school science project when I had to work (even at my low-paying, part-time, non-profit job). It's harder to say, "I can't. I need to stay home that day." Or, simply, "I can't."

What else do I need that might not suit other creatures? I need books. Reading revives me, rejuvenates me, feeds me. And if you're spending three hours each day volunteering, there's not much time left to read after dinner, laundry and cleaning.

I also need order, not chaos. This has been hard to come by as we've had a contractor in and out, on an irregular schedule, repairing ceilings, hanging drywall, fixing doorknobs. I want my house straight, if not spotlessly clean. And I want it empty of anyone but me. As I write this, two men are downstairs hanging drywall on my living room ceiling. It needs to be done. I'll be glad when it's done. But I really want the quiet of my own home right now and I'm still several days away from having that.

Finally, I need to write. I almost closed this post without mentioning this need. It is hard to write when I'm over-stimulated, under-read and surrounded by chaos. So I have been leaving this need mostly untended, in spite of the progress that I made last week on two articles. In spite of the fact that I need to share these two articles tomorrow. I tell myself that this need is my least important need, but maybe that's just not true. Maybe I could cope better with these other things if I would write.

I guess the unanswered question in all of this is whether filling these needs will turn me from a caterpillar into a butterfly... or even get me started down that road.

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