It was like a Michael Jackson tribute event as we all stood with one glove on and screamed high pitch yelps at frequent moments. Alas, we were not at a concert but in the garden at 7am on a Sunday morning and the event was a caterpillar infestation.
Our beautiful central tree of the courtyard was now surrounded on every branch by hairy eating machines and was on the way to resembling a leafless telegraph pole.
The previous night had been filled with nightmares about ‘cannibal caterpillars’ and ‘catapillarziller’ so early Sunday morning I mustered the whole family and gave each ‘the glove’ to pick the caterpillars off with and a plastic bag. We had to use whatever gloves we could find and so took to the task (with a lot of shrieks of horror and ‘you cannot be serious’ from still sleeping children) with an assortment of equipment. In last place for effectiveness was the woolly winter glove which was designed so that caterpillars could attach like Velcro and elicited the most frantic hand waving, next was the sock which looked liked a Kermit the frog sock puppet eating , there was a surgical glove, a golf glove (husband was not amused) and a Audrey Hepburn long evening glove from the dressing up box.
After two hours of picking off hundreds of caterpillars, we were emotionally scarred for life, had had to placate security who were alerted by reports of screaming, felt imaginary caterpillars in our hair for the rest of the day and were divorced by our children who said that we did the worst family bonding activities in the world and that this had to be a ‘paying job’.
The next day, filled with pride, I went to see the tree and to my horror found some more crawlies. My life now became a lonely sojourn everyday for the next two weeks to pull off caterpillars. To negate the horrible feeling I decided to make it a Zen activity and tried to get into an alpha state, doing a moving meditation while I plucked. I also developed ‘bush eyes’ where I could look through the leaves and spot the offender at two metres. On a course I ran, people were encouraged to look for caterpillars during tea break as an ice breaker. I sprayed the tree, fed it, smudged it and when I discovered that the beasts were on their next rebirth cycle, took the 1 cm babies off as well
It became a metaphor for my 2013 year of clearing out what was not needed or wanted and my tree work was accompanied by a clearing of the house, clothes, junk food and a detox of what I didn’t want in the coming 2014.
I must admit that by the end, my ‘thank you for the lesson’ words to each caterpillar had changed somewhat to ‘I am Darth Vader of the death star and I will kill you” but I left for holiday feeling successful and positive about the happy tree.
I returned in 2014 and was devastated to find big fat caterpillars who had had a Christmas feast and were about to pop after a respite from the gloved predator. Surely my hard work had not been in vain?
I decided to not only pull off the caterpillars I could find but also create the new vision for the year so also cut off the lowest branches that were weighing the tree down, tied certain branches to the main trunk to give support and feed the roots on a regular basis to maintain the nurturing. While I was there I thought I may as well plant some flowers, rearrange the garden and put my own vision of beauty into my surroundings
The pruning seems to have given the tree a new lease of life and despite weird looks from the neighbours on seeing an occupant with binoculars and a glove staring a tree for hours I have not seen a caterpillar for 5 days.
At the beginning of the year I sat on a public bench and found a butterfly key-ring and on the 11th ( a time of change and awakening)as I drove round the area there was clouds of the brown veined white butterflies that fly like confetti on their annual journey to Madagasger. Butterflies are known as symbols of transformation due their impressive process of metamorphism and the white butterflies symbolises peace and a certain change that occurs rapidly, a time of rebirth, evolution, commemoration, lightness and soul awakening.
It reassured me that transformation has taken place this year and that although there is still pruning and maintenance to do, and there is still the finishing off and completion of things that were started in 2013, if the hard work has been put in last year, this year will be easier and more supported, the caterpillar can turn into a butterfly. As a symbol I bought two butterfly plants and attached my butterfly key-ring to remind me of the necessity of cycles and synchronicity and the possibilities and beauty that can result if we focus on transformation and creation.
Some tips to change from a caterpillar to a butterfly year
- Keep an eye on the things that were created last year and things that still need to be cleared because they no longer serve you or need to be eliminated in order for you to create the new. Prune the things that weigh you down so you can grow upwards, and remember that it’s harder to fly when something is weighing you down.“Your time as a caterpillar is over, your wings are ready”
- Link up to the main trunk for support – spiritual, emotional and physical practices that ground you, support you and give you peace. When we feel supported, things flow and perspectives change.“Happiness is a butterfly which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you” Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Keep your focus on what you are creating, watch for the butterfly you dream about not the caterpillar that you have nightmares about. Trust the process, for synchronicity and new cycles may be in place and the dreams may need to wait until something else is put in place.“Well I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies” Antoine de Saint- Exupery, The little prince
- Trees need light, good food, rest and water – so do you (and kind words from people help plants grow too). Rest and take time out when you need to and set up 15 minutes at the start of the day to build your energy before opening emails, dealing with people and interacting with the negative as this helps to give you better answers and plans.“Live your life like a butterfly, take a rest sometimes but never forget to fly”
- Turn your challenges into a Zen or fun activity. Play with them, create new possibilities and solutions, 2014 is a year of creation and butterfly potential and the year when you can become more authentic, more visible and a stronger version of yourself.“Life doesn’t get easier…your wings just get stronger”
- Hard work is still needed ( caterpillar has the word pillar in it, build the pillars first); however this year will yield results for the work if you have the courage to move forward and challenge the stagnant beliefs and constraints.“ How does one become a butterfly? – you must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar”
- 2014 is a year of hope and infinite possibilities. Whatever stage of transformation you are in accept and play with this process of creativity and transformation with patience and persistence“Seeds, caterpillars and bees come before flowers, butterflies and honey. They remind us of the beauty, transformation and sweetness in life that follow the patience to grow, persistence in struggle and diligent effort. Everything will be worthwhile one day” Doe Zantamata