Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Chrysalis

The chrysalis symbolizes my feelings right now, like an ugly striped caterpillar about to become a butterfly. Our friend Nancy showed us how to leave the native milkweed plants alone and not mow them, since they attract the caterpillars. On one little plant (no more than 12 inches high) we’ve had a crop of three, of which one attached to a giant yucca plant here in the attached photo. One day it will open up and a Monarch butterfly will emerge and hopefully fly down to Mexico for the winter.

Next year I’m going to farm those milkweed plants! They’re interesting to watch and I feel good about “making more butterflies” but jeez, those caterpillars can sure poop. You can tell if you have a hot milkweed plant because of all the black scat on the bottom leaves. Yup, just like babies. Butterflies, on the other hand, seem to gracefully sip nectar and don’t seem so messy.

If you Google the word “chrysalis” you get lots of Christian websites such as about rebirth but to me it is more like a changing of the guard. The smell of winter is in the north winds. The Island seems to be changing, too, not just with things natural but disturbing changes of growth, construction, and a new breed of day tripper. Personally I’m changing too, since for the first time since moving down here in July, our company has allowed me a million-dollar budget to study air pollution from ships. Not that I’d get very much of the booty, but frankly I’m honored to be the head honcho of something other than my lunch box!

Yes, a caterpillar turns into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly. It is time.


Everett said...

Hi Sam, All the time we kids were growing up on the Island, my grandfather was always showing us 'stuff'. One of the was about the milkweed plant and the butterflies affinity for them. They used to practically cover the Island around the edges of the stone walls. If they were out in the middle of a hay field, or in a cultivated plot they of course were lost. When they got to the stage where they were about to burst open and release their seeds, we would go around and collect all we could. Then we would proceed to pull all the seeds with their little parachutes attached out of the pods. We would then throw them up in the wind from the top of Meadow Hill and see whose would go the farthest. Of course mine always won!! I have also heard it said that during WWII, these things were collected and sent somewhere where they were used to make the synthetic "silk" used in making real parachutes. I'll have to try and Google that! Thanks for bringing back another nice memory.

Everett said...

Hi Again, Well I went Googling and found 43 thousand hits for milkweed pods. Turns out they were used to stuff life preservers not parachutes during WWII. One and a half pounds of the silk would keep a 150 pound sailor afloat for at least 10 hours. They used this because the Japanese controlled most all the Islands where Kapok was grown, and for some reason wouldn't let us have any!Hmmm? Anyway there is a company started in 1989 that sell the stuff in pillows to people that are allergic to bird down and foam pillows! Who knew? Have a good one. BTW I just put up the beginning of one of those long quasi military stories. I think I will be increasing the lenght of them too four pages as it didn't take as long to read it as I thought it would. See Ya !

Sam said...

Hey thanks, Everett, I remember playing with the milkweed pods like it was yesterday, and had no idea they had any commercial / military value. And, I'm sure Block Island wasn't covered in 12 feet of shrubbery back then - it seemed like it had more of a mowed look. Seems like Martha Ball wrote about the old field mowers and how they ended up being rusted relics, some still left.

We used to do interesting things with cat-o-nine tails, too!