It’s that time of year in Texas when walking down the sidewalk or over a knot of roots or down a driveway has us weaving through caterpillars, dangling midair from strings. There I’ll be, typing away on my laptop in the backyard when a caterpillar drops into my tea, curling into a sad little ball. There I’ll be, helping my kid down the slide when a caterpillar drops onto my shoulder, hitching a ride to a pile of green leaves. They are acrobats, twisting on invisible webs in the wind.
They inch across rocks, in movements that spark an internal monologue of a Jewish yoga instructor leading a Zoom flow class: “Tushy high! Tushy low. Tushy high! Tushy low.”
After the workout has been suitably endured (“Inchworms! Today is when you put in the work for a better you tomorrow! Tushy high! Tushy low!”), they hang from tree branches and cement, suddenly still. Seeing them there, my heart stops for a moment. I wonder if they’re dead, until I remember that before they can transform, they must pause, they must harden into rock.
Just as I found comfort in the natural world when the pandemic lockdowns began, here we are again, circling each other, destined to emerge transformed. Because everything these days feels big and profound and metaphorical, when I look at them, I feel known.
What has this interminable year been, after all, but lots of flitting about on invisible strings, sometimes joyfully, sometimes desperately? Inching determinedly across rocks, tushy high, tushy low, in search of the perfect place to attach and grow my children and myself, but willing to settle for, well, this place, which has sunlight, even if it’s in the middle of a playground and there are constantly children poking their fingers at me and it’s all a bit busy for the profound business of complete and utter transformation, but have I mentioned, there is food, and it’s warm?
This year, I’ve metamorphosed, my children have metamorphosed, my whole life, my career, my relationships, the very concept of what it means to be me have metamorphosed. So what if it all happened while I dangled over wood chips, clinging with every last bit of strength I had? At least I clung.
I don’t quite know yet if I’ve emerged a butterfly of bright, vivid colors, or a moth that simply gets the job done with some camouflage. But here I am, like the inchworms, inevitably moving forward until poised to take flight. Tushy high, tushy low, then we are where and who we’re meant to be. Beshert, we catch in the breeze and flit up and away.
It’s springtime. There are vaccinations in my arm. The air is sweet with pollen and with hope. I’ll take it, even if it’s all a bit sneezy. Tushy high, tushy low, we’ve soldiered here.
Leah Levy lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband of seven years, Stephen, and two overly energetic kiddos, ages 1 and 4. Between writing technology and educational web content and doing daycare runs, she writes middle-grade fiction about kids who don’t quite fit in. She’s the founder and writer of www.juststartstorytelling.com and can also be found at leahl.medium.com.