love note no.16: dear caterpillar.

We have began a new chapter in our family adventures here in Costa Rica.  And we have been busy maintaining connection with our daughter who has been living abroad. It is unfamiliar emotional and logistical territory – piecing out my heart while navigating time zones.

I haven’t written any love letters here in over 6 weeks.  Every time I started to write a love letter it felt like writing holiday cards – too many to write, so little time.  Now I have figured out how to stay in one place and feel the earth beneath my feet.  

And I think the world needs a little more love right now.  

Don’t expect a chronological review of the sequence of events over the last bit of life.  I will touch on all of it through these letters, collaging them together with story and memories.  I write again because I found this quote by Lousie Bourgeois:  “To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer.”  I need to stop compartmentalizing and trying to organize my experiences and emotions.  So here is where I spill the contents as I see fit.  To let myself get messy without anticipating a tidy finish.  To map out the metaphors and celebrate the uncertainty.  To stay in just one place for a little while.  

Today I begin my letters again slowly and with a small miracle.

Dear caterpillar,

We found you the other day resting between two large leaves.  By the following day, there was this film, this veil starting to form around you.  And now, a few days later, you are less lean and long and more swollen with the silky, thread-like film thickening around you.  We can only speculate that you are building your cocoon and not a chrysalis because we don’t see a hard casing around you.  We think you are on your way to becoming a moth.


I’d like to give you a heads up little caterpillar – moths get a bad rap.  Butterflies get all the glory.  All the children’s books are written with butterflies adorning the gardens or stories about growth and transformation into a beautiful butterfly in the light of day.

My daughter recently wrote a short story about a girl and a caterpillar.

Spoiler Alert:  After the girl rescues the caterpillar from being trampled on a foot path, she brings it home to live in her garden and the caterpillar turns into, you guessed it, a butterfly.

But I am writing this love letter to you because I know you are special. You will have a frenulum while butterflies do not.  This little piece of your anatomy joins the forewing to the hind wing so the wings can work in unison during flight – an advantage, I suppose, for your nighttime flights because you are primarily nocturnal.  You love the night – the quiet and the darkness.

As we find our nightly rhythm here in Costa Rica, we have welcomed many moths into our home.  Attracted to light, moths of many sizes have paid us a visit – some very unexpected and humorous visits including one where a grown man jumped out of the bed when a large sphinx moth landed on his head.  (At least, we think it’s a sphinx moth. It actually kept showing up every night during the first week we were here.)  And as I sat here this early morning, before the sun rose, the tiniest of moths landed on my finger.


The moth is a creature of transformation, similar to the butterfly, but its nocturnal nature is what sets it apart.  Its ability to thrive in the darkness but at the same time to always find the light is a trait not to be discounted.  To not flail when things are unknown.  To have faith that you were born with a deep inner knowing even in the darkest places.  Some hypothesize that the moth is led by lunar light and it occasionally mistakes manmade light for the moon’s light which explains why it follows any light.

Guided by the moon, she takes flight in the darkness.

Needless to say, my family is going through its own metamorphosis on a collective and on an individual level.  We are a microcosm of what is going on out there. We are being transformed whether some of us like it or not.  There has been breakage, dissolution, stripping, and releasing.  But like my daughter’s story of the girl saving a caterpillar that could be trampled in its most vulnerable time, and giving it a place to undergo its transformation in peace, Chris and I are trying our best to do the same for our children – hold that space for them as they turn to mush, a necessary act before becoming something new.

A few weeks ago, it was dark and the jungle symphony changed from birds to insects.  We were sitting outside under the stars and my son put his hand across his forehead and said, “Mama, I’m sick.”

I felt his head and said it didn’t feel like he had a fever.  He said, “Not that kind of sick.  I’m homesick.”  I moved my hand down to his heart and rubbed it and said holding back the tears, “Tell me about it.”  He talked about our old couch which now lives in a friend’s house which used to live in our basement in the house we also sold.  He talked about how cozy it was and how he loved sitting there to cool down when it was hot outside.

I asked him, “So you miss that feeling.  Being able to go to a place that you knew would make you feel better?”

He nodded.  And I said, “Hold on to that feeling.  Close your eyes and feel it.  When you do that, you invite that feeling to come back in any space you happen to be in.  Feel us with you cuddling and keeping cool.  Feel family loving you wherever you are.”

This has been the simplest way for us to hold space for our children and for ourselves – to create a container of love to hold them steady.  We have found beautiful people in this community to hold a space for all of us too.

It is at night when my children miss our family and our old home the most – when the bright colours of the jungle and the ocean fade and they are no longer distracted by the sights.  It is a dark with life moving through it, a dark with a different world waking up.  It’s been so long since we have been in a darkness like this – the occasional light from the moon when it breaks through the clouds, the only thing that gives us comfort.  We are used to noisy city light outside our windows from street lamps and the glow of a big city.  When there are brown outs here, we can barely see our hand in front of us sometimes and the sun sets in an instant without that familiar phase of a comforting dusk, a softening of the light.


I had been telling stories to my children about caterpillars and butterflies to heal them when they feel unsettled and not at home – in their body and in their physical location.  But little cocooning caterpillar, you have taught me that I missed the mark.  It is the wisdom of the moth that I must share with them.  The butterfly – they know.  They have even raised monarchs and released them.  It is the moth and all its stories of the dark that they need, that I need.  I need to bring them to light to show them this mysterious beauty – the beauty of faith in the darkness.

My story will be along the same lines as my daughter’s story – to rescue a caterpillar from being trampled on when it’s most vulnerable – when it doesn’t have its wings yet and moves slowly on unchartered terrain – and place it in a garden where it is safe and has room to fall apart, to rest, and put itself back together to enjoy a life of moving through the darkness, occasionally chasing the light of the moon.

So little caterpillar, thank you for your lesson.

We will protect your cocoon and let you take your time to transform.








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One response to “love note no.16: dear caterpillar.”

  1. meg Avatar

    This is full of such wisdom! I love reading your notes – even if they aren’t coming as fast as they used to. They are perfect to me!

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