Inside the cocoon the caterpillar digests itself. It deliquesces its nervous system, guts, mouth, eyes, muscles, and legs. What does it feel like to melt? I would hesitate to say it feels like “becoming yourself”. What if one day after a big salad you suddenly started to feel very sick. You went to lie down, rubbing your temples. Maybe a migraine was blooming behind your eyes. When, suddenly, you realized your skin was sloughing off. There was a tidal pool where your chest should be. There is every reason to believe that the caterpillar’s metamorphosis feels terrifying. Or that it feels like death. I wonder if the radical inability to classify the experience is a necessary ingredient in transformation. Each one of the caterpillar’s cells has held this secret ability to self-destruct since birth. This, to me, seems the most comforting thing. Even if the mind is destabilized, literally liquefied, by the transformation, even if the body puddles, you are being “authored” at a deeper level than mind or skin-silhouette. You are being distilled by the intuition of your own cells. A few “imaginal disc cells” remain constant that then “use” the slush of protein and matter to compose a butterfly.
Tomb or womb, the cocoon is a vessel. An autopoietic boat through the meltwater of your own transformation. It both creates and shapes disorder. An interesting fact is that the caterpillar and the butterfly both “fit” inside of the cocoon. When we digest ourselves, we create ourselves. Not a single cell is expendable. Nothing is discarded. The butterfly, then, is a remarkable act of inclusion. No part of the caterpillar will be exiled from the ecstasy of flight. Yet no part of the caterpillar will remain unchanged.
“The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.”
— Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
You must repeat the whole process again: Attend to the plant itself once more, reexperience the moment of first contact, let it build to great intensity, send out your plea to know, then slightly disengage once more.
This process must always be repeated, usually many times.
Not through an extraordinary spiritual gift, not through momentary inspiration, unexpected and unique, but through constant work did I eventually achieve such satisfactory results. ⚘ Goethe
You must reengage with the phenomenon and repeat the process over and over and over again until, in a burst of understanding, an articulation of the meanings occurs naturally within you in a gestalt filled with highly charged understanding, complete and whole. It is in this moment that the plant stands revealed to you, the moment when it has completely unconcealed itself. You literally see the living reality of the plant within you on the field of your imaginal vision. This living reality of the plant is not composed merely of its physical shape, its energy, engendered feelings, or those preliminary linguistic bursts, pictures, or random thoughts that you experienced. There is a depth to the phenomenon now that is far beyond those things.
⚘ Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature
Time is the continuous loop, the snakeskin with scales endlessly overlapping without beginning or end, or time is an ascending spiral if you will, like a child's toy Slinky. Of course we have no idea which arc on the loop is our time, let alone
where the loop itself is, so to speak, or down whose lofty flight of stairs the Slinky so uncannily walks.
Annie Dillard. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 77.
Most of our childhood is stored not in photos, but in certain biscuits, lights of day, smells, textures of carpet.
∆ Alain de Botton
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
| Mary Oliver