Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Metamorphosis

Now I don’t intend to write about Ovid’s or Kafka’s takes on the subject (I have read the latter, but not the former). Rather, I’d prefer to mull over the little miracles I’ve been personally witnessing over the past few weeks. It started with the single spotting of an abandoned cicada nymph casing. The result of a molt to adulthood, the ugly pinchered skin was left behind, while the newly reborn adult began its aboveground life after more than a decade of blindly burrowing, feeding, and growing under the earth. Split at the top, brittle, hollow, but still completely and perfectly formed, its empty legs clung to the trunk of a tree. I plucked it from its perch, examined it, then discarded it thoughtlessly. Then, over the course of the next few days, I found more and more and more of the molted remnants of immature insects. They were everywhere—I didn’t have to actively search for them. I would stumble upon them stupidly, or they would suddenly appear before me as I went about my day, and I pictured the deluge of cicada nymphs digging their way out of the soil, clawing up a branch, shedding, emerging, drying, and droning off to begin the summer song. Fantastic.

And then there were the tadpoles swimming thickly in every puddle, every pond, every stock tank. In addition to the big fat lethargic resident toads, I’ve been seeing smaller specimens hopping around light sources, looking for bugs attracted to the brightness. Then I put two and two together. Huh.

The birdhouses, too, are full of young’uns. While their transformation may not be quite so dramatic, it’s still miraculous to think about the whole process of fertilization, which leads to an embryo in an egg, which hatches to reveal a hideous pink monstrosity that wobbles and cries through its gaping mouth and then, somehow, sprouts feathers and takes gracefully to the air. One set of fledglings was in the process of leaving the nest. I caught one when it clumsily flew into the garage and took it outside to rescue it from the dogs. It struggled and squirmed in my hand, alert, ready to spread its wings. How?

Change. Metamorphosis. Evolution—in the most literal sense of the word, as well as in the most hated Darwinian terms. But isn’t there something immensely beautiful about the whole thing? Something ugly because something magnificent; pieces are made whole; improvements are achieved. And this is not to play into the whole evolution-is-climbing-towards-the-ultimate-pinnacle (namely, mankind), because I don’t believe that at all. But, still, the drumbeats of progress create extraordinary things. Isn’t a butterfly more stunning than a caterpillar, or, to turn it around, doesn’t the butterfly’s glory make the caterpillar’s life that much more exceptional? Perhaps one completes the other—the yin and the yang.

Growth, anyway. Coming to fruition. Realizing one’s potential. Why are we so afraid of change?


secret agent woman said...

Because the familiar is comfortable, even if not good for us.

Mozart said...

Too true, I'm afraid.