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An Easter story

Dear Editor:

It is a story occurring in the natural world all around us. Its protagonist is the larva of a butterfly or moth, known as a caterpillar.

From the moment of its birth from a tiny egg on the underside of a leaf, its god is its stomach: Its only business is to put on corporeal substance, and so it eats and molts and eats and molts and eats for weeks on end.



Until one day it stops. For a time, it grows inert, digesting and excreting the remains of its last supper but otherwise doing nothing that the eye can see. Inwardly, things are happening that we can hardly imagine.

And suddenly it’s on the move. Leaving the comfort and relative security of its food plant, it embarks on a forced march, covering long distances on the ground and, to its peril, over highways and byways that intersect its path. With some species, this path seems guided by a GPS: The woolly bears that pass before my bicycle tires on the Rio Grande Trail in September are headed southwest; not one travels in another direction.




This creature is on the road to Calvary, and it must get there at the appointed time.

When at last it arrives at the foot of its cross, it affixes itself to it by means of a button of silk and sometimes a silken girdle. And then, having surrendered its mobility, it surrenders its existence: In a day or so, its skin splits and falls away, taking with it the 10 pseudopods, or false feet, that it has used to haul around its bulk.

What remains is a mummy, a lifeless object in a dying landscape on a cooling hemisphere. But the features of this mummy are remarkable and suggestive of magic: the butterfly that we will not see for another six months or more is clearly already here. The wings, the eyes, the antennae can all be discerned.

Paul told the Philippians of how a savior “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory, by the exertion of a power that he has even to subject all things to himself.” In the case of the caterpillar, something akin to this transformative power has been at work during its long death march.

We know how the story ends: Eventually the vernal equinox arrives, the stone is rolled away from the tomb, and a winged, glorified body launches itself into the ether.

If you ask what is the basis for my belief, it is the fact that, as Hamlet exclaims, “Examples gross as earth exhort me.”

“All that passes is a parable,” Goethe wrote. We are surrounded by stories that tell yet another story.

Thanks to this particular story, observed frequently and reverently during my childhood, I know what I am and who I may become.

Chad Klinger

Carbondale


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