By Jenny Leigh Hodgins All photos, music, video content © 2018 by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
A couple of years ago, while leisurely checking on my plants in my Florida garden, I discovered 13 caterpillars on my tropical milkweed. New to the whole idea of gardening and unaware that these were Monarch caterpillars, I quickly did a Google search and found a Facebook group to consult.
The Race To Rescue Began
I didn’t know anything about Monarch butterflies. I learned from the Facebook group and online research that the Monarch’s numbers are drastically dwindling in our region and the world. I learned that due to pesticides (i.e., in Florida neighborhoods, regular trucks spray for mosquitos), only a few survive disease. Those that live face the threat of predators (like wasps and lizards) if left alone with mother nature.
Instead of killing these critters for eating my milkweed, instead, based on the advice of The Beautiful Monarch Facebook group and other friends with Monarch expertise, I actually decided to bring the caterpillars indoors.
This is how I began my first experience with ‘rescuing’ Monarchs from predators or harsh elements. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, as I tediously coaxed the hungry caterpillars onto fresh milkweed leaves and stems, to transfer into a mesh container.
For those who don’t know, mature Monarch caterpillars climb onto something where they sew an attachment from which they can hang upside down in a ‘J’ shape. They later shake a shimmy-like dance to shed their caterpillar skin and form a chrysalis which hardens. (Watch my video below showing that process.) During a period of time, they undergo a mystifying metamorphosis to emerge as an orange and black Monarch butterfly!
After a quick local internet search, I learned the importance of having a closed container so that I wouldn’t have caterpillars forming chrysalides everywhere inside my home. Since I have two real cats who would be driven mad from curiosity about these new indoor roommates, I knew I had to get the 13 caterpillars in a solidly closed container.
I had a race against time as these big fifth stage cats were already beginning to spin their silks before I could get them into a properly sealed container. At 9:30pm, I ran down to a local store to buy a pop-up, zippered laundry basket, only to discover holes for handles when I got home. Consulting with the Facebook group butterfly aficionados, I knew I needed to seal the holes to prevent escapes.
I called my mother in Kentucky, whose many artistic talents include being a seamstress. At 10pm, she taught me over the phone how to quickly sew tulle across the laundry handles to end escape routes. I am not a seamstress by any stretch of imagination, so dealing with tulle and a needle was a tortuous and annoying task. (I'm sure Mom could relay the cursing and grunting vividly.)
Once the containers were sealed securely, I transferred ten fat caterpillars and one chrysalis that had already formed on a milkweed stem propped through saran-wrap in a cup of water. Two chrysalides had already formed in separate mesh containers, so I put them under my patio table's umbrella netting, double-sealing the container openings with T-shirts, towels and rubberbands. What a botched job!
By the next day all but two caterpillars had morphed into solid green chrysalides hanging from the mesh at the top of the laundry basket. I discovered one green chrysalis had formed on my bedroom dresser top!
Coaxed carefully by my new Facebook group mentors, I managed to gently detach and transport it to join the others in the large mesh container. I pinned it to scotch tape across the top of the container. I felt like a doctor performing my first important surgery.
The final caterpillar finally shed its face to reveal its beautiful green and gold-rimmed chrysalis right in front of me just three days after I had rescued it. (See my short video of this remarkable transformation below.)
I barely had enough time to get these caterpillars into containers before they morphed into chrysalides. The fast-paced learning curve that was keeping me on my toes took another sharp turn when I discovered four chrysalides turning brown and one with long white strings hanging from it.
Again, my dear Facebook group butterfly mothers came to my aid. This was my first heartbreak; discovering I had to freeze these chrysalides due to the parasite fly that had infected them. It was important to quickly separate the infected ones from those remaining. (This also taught me to rescue earlier than later to avoid such infestation.)
Down to nine small, beautiful, dainty light-green chrysalides with sparkly gold bands around the top layers (see photos below), I began the countdown to see how many butterflies would survive to healthfully emerge.
Why Bother With Creeping Crawling Critters?
Some of my friends thought I’d gone off the deep end when they heard about this project. Especially considering I knew next to nothing about the Monarch Butterfly, am generally freaked out by insects of any kind, and already have too many irons in the fire, my singular focus must have seemed a bit bizarre. What compelled me to put so much effort into creeping, crawling things I knew little about?
The Preciousness of Each Life Mirrors Our Value As Individuals
I instinctively knew the value of this life-form. Rather, I was moved by the value of any and all life-forms, and wanted to protect it if I had the power to do so. (I'm that kind of person who scoots lizards and spiders out the door versus squishing them.)
I had no idea if my efforts would save even one Monarch. But since each caterpillar is a form of life, it struck me as precious and worth every effort. Something about these creatures pushed a button in me.
The experience showed me a deeper, philosophical and beautiful meaning. It opened my eyes to my challenge to see each person in my life through that same ‘life is precious’ filter. I knew that for me to be able to value the dignity of people around me, fundamentally I must value my own life.
Deepening my vision to see past differences and flaws to revere the positive potential of each individual life underlying these superficialities is my new determination. Wow, what a bunch of caterpillars have taught me about my life-view. Imagine what an emerging butterfly would accomplish!
Stay tuned for the next chapter in my emerging butterfly series.
If you enjoyed this blog, please let me know in the comments below!
Click Here for a list of butterfly rescue supplies I use and recommend.
SIGN UP HERE for more strategies for creativity, piano, caregiver and spiritual wellness!
How To Use Self-Care To Feel Happy
5 Ways To Use Music & Nature For Self-Care
Defeat Fear & Doubt with Your Courage & Capability
How To Deflect Negativity To Become Happier
Believing In The Positive
To Climb Again My Kilimanjaro
Check out my Self Care Resources page.
Watch my video below to see a Monarch caterpillar shake a shimmy-like dance to shed his caterpillar skin and form a chrysalis which hardens into a green and gold gem.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins. Photos, music, video content by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
LISTEN to the podcast here.
We know the importance of balancing our lives with self-care. There are research-based blogs, news, videos and magazine articles stressing this point everywhere you look.
The benefits of taking time for yourself to do something you enjoy, play, relax, rest, or simply do nothing are powerful. Studies prove that doing nothing or taking time to play games or just relax leads to better productivity, inspired creativity, and greater wellness overall.
How To Change Your Old Habits With New Proof
However, getting more accustomed to taking a break for yourself takes practice for those of us who aren't used to it. For people like me, changing old thought processes can feel counterproductive. But I am challenging my mindset habits like thinking, "doing nothing is lazy" or "will cause me to fall behind", because science proves the opposite is true.
Proactively Look For Easy Self-Care Opportunities
Both the success of my entrepreneurial life and my mother's health depend on me being in the best shape. So I'm becoming more proactive toward finding more opportunities to take care of myself.
The truth is that when I feel good, I have more positive energy, take better action and am more compassionate for others. So self-care is becoming more of a priority.
5 Self-Care Ideas To Try
I've found several things work for me. Perhaps some of these suggestions will be helpful for you to embrace a bit of self-care in your life, too.
1. Pool or Garden. When I lived in Florida, I found relaxing in my saltwater pool while enjoying my tropical garden of flowers, fruits, plants, butterflies, bumblebees and dragonflies brought me great relief. Now that I've moved back to my Kentucky hometown as caregiver for Mom, I enjoy the pool here only during summer months.
If you have a chance to swim, whether in your backyard, at your condo or apartment, a local YMCA or gym, take advantage of it. Swimming is great exercise, and even better if you have your own oasis to enjoy while floating in your pool.
2. Cycle. Here in beautiful Lexington, I have found cycling on the Legacy Trail to be another self-care practice. If you are able to ride a bicycle, find a local trail or even just cycle around your neighborhood to refresh your energy.
Pedaling gets your heart rate up, and the fresh air against you while rolling forward feels great. If you're lucky enough to have a beautiful greenway like Legacy Trail, or Tarpon Springs and Dunedin, Florida's Pinellas Trail, take advantage of the adventure.
3. Take A Walk. During cold winter months (when there is no ice or snow on the sidewalks), taking a walk outdoors has become my short, meditative practice. It's tempting to avoid going out into the cold weather, but every time I take a short walk I come back invigorated.
4. Be Still With Yourself. Meditation is another form of self-care and can include anything from watching the sun set, listening to a guided audio meditation, reading upon first waking up, sitting silently with your thoughts, or chanting. For me, just being in nature is meditative.
When I lived in Florida, meandering through my tropical private garden, looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars, weeding, harvesting pineapples, squash, lettuce or kale, or planting new wildflowers was my meditation.
The quiet of the morning, with the sun just rising, surrounded by greenery and colorful plants eased me into the day. Nature's abundance and life cycles never ceased to encourage me.
5. Explore Creativity. Nature or meditation often may lead to self-expression through a creative outlet. Creative expression is good for the soul and often considered another form of 'play.' Creative play boosts wellness, cognitive function and productivity.
Time in nature inspires me to create. Nature walks and my cycling adventures led me to start taking nature photos with the simplicity of an iPhone button push.
Explore creative outlets like playing a musical instrument, composing music, drumming, taking photos, painting, knitting, writing a poem or a journal entry. Taking an acting class or experimenting with stand-up comedy, or a dance class are all fun options for tapping new creative paths.
Standing Still With Yourself Inspires New Creative Energy
When I take time for nature's beauty, I'm inspired to create music and take photos. Initially, I gratefully absorb the textures, sizes, colors, lighting, shapes, silences, and sounds from the wind, animals, and in the environment.
Being still with my spiritual core while experiencing fresh air and taking in nature's vibrations and visual stimulation, fills me with appreciation and calms my thoughts. This does wonders for stress relief.
Take A Moment To Relax With Nature And Music
Below is a nature video I made as a kind of self-care meditation for you. Even in the coldest of wintry elements, nature is abundant with pleasing, meditative, healing force. Take a moment to relax while watching my nature music video below.
Click on the play button below to enjoy my winter scene nature video and hear my original music, "Moonlight In My Heart".
If you enjoyed this blog, please share or let me know in the comments below!
My Pinterest spiritual wellness and caregiver boards have more self-care ideas. Please check them out and let me know if you've found any of my ideas helpful.
You may also find some lovely nature photos at my Instagram account here.
For a list of self-care resources and products I recommend, click here.
For a list of music resources and products I recommend, click here.
In my Spiritual Wellness blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.