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Chrysalis Magic, Captured in Glass

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's utterly captivating to live with caterpillars and chrysalides, to feel somehow a part of the transformation. Monarchs are so beautiful in every life stage, so extravagantly gorgeous, and so accessible. What a gift from nature.

It is a very powerful thing to "give" a chrysalis to a child, for the young one to watch and ponder. Phoebe and Liam name each one and rush to follow its progress. Phoebe hasn't even finished her pancakes here, interrupted by the slow undulation of her J-hung caterpillar and the excitement that surrounded photographing its emergence as a chrysalis. She's the one who noticed it undulating, and without her I'd have missed the whole thing as I stood at the stove flipping pancakes.

I lined the kids up to take their picture and Liam said, "Hold on!" and scurried off to make a sign. "Combo, My little guy."

They're pointing at "their" respective chrysalides. Phoebe named the caterpillar in her chrysalis O'Connor. Her current caterpillar is named Juliana. Juliana is in J as I write. Combo hatched out yesterday, and it's Combo I'll feature in the hatching series.

I'm not sure many of us naturalists, as Kathi pointed out, have the opportunity to really understand what happens between the caterpillar and chrysalis stages--we have this hazy idea that the caterpillar "turns into" a chrysalis or somehow spins a cocoon. Moth caterpillars that chrysalize (if that be a word) inside a cocoon spin the silk cocoon first and then shed their caterpillar skin inside the protective cocoon. We don't think of caterpillars having the ability to spin silk, but they do, and the giant silkworm moths take it to extremes.

Butterfly caterpillars tend to shed their skin and hang as a chrysalis, no cocoon involved. But they still produce silk, if only just to use as a sturdy, nearly unbreakable hanging system. The chrysalides tend to be cryptic, often brown or green. The monarch's chrysalis, I think, is the most beautiful of all.

Perhaps it is the bewitching seafoam color or the shining gold buttons that made me think a monarch chrysalis would make the most lovely pendant, but of course the means to do that evaded me. A gifted glass artist in Wisconsin thought the same thing, and set about making that thought a reality.

I first saw Jude Rose's work hanging around the prescient neck of my dear friend, naturalist Liz DeLuna Gordon. You may remember her wedding to naturalist Jeff Gordon, in which my fairytale girl Phoebe dressed up as a luna moth and Liam bore the (toy) train. Because Liz isn't the type to have a train dragging through the pine straw.We certainly remember it.

So Jeff and Liz turn up at my Letters from Eden art show opening at the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Pennsylvania last October, and Liz is wearing this jade-green glass chrysalis necklace, and I zooped over to her and touched the pendant, murmuring, "Where did you get this? Must have this! Must have this!" It was one of those moments when you realize that someone has had the same thought as you, but they've taken it and run with it and made something of it instead of idly musing about it.

Bill noticed, and with Liz and Jeff's help, he got me one in time for Christmas. He's good that way.

I wore it once, and put it in my pocket prior to taking a shower. Threw the pants in the washer, then the dryer. The pendant, so longed for, so beautiful, emerged chipped and bashed, basically toasted. It is made of glass, after all.

Ashamed and abashed, I emailed its creator, Jude Rose. I explained what I'd done, how crushed I was at my own stupidity. I sent her some jpegs of paintings I'd done of the monarch's chrysalis transformation, so she could see I wasn't just a careless lummox. I was a creative careless lummox.
I asked if she might repair the damaged pendant. And, bless her generous heart, she suggested a barter --of a signed copy of Letters from Eden and one of my limited-edition prints for a brand new chrysalis pendant.

Jude went into the studio and fired up her blowtorch to make a chrysalis especially for me. She emailed me to tell me the piece was done. "You must have really good nature karma, because this chrysalis is one of the best I've ever done. It just made itself."

I've taken good care of it, never again putting it in my pocket, and here it is, hanging with two real chrysalides. I love this pendant so much, and everywhere I go, people ask me where I got it, who made it. It's delightful to find how many people recognize it as a monarch chrysalis, and they all ask, "Is that REAL?" Well, I guess it's a fair question, because the Science Chimp has been known to use cast-off cicada skins as earrings and brooches...

Go see Jude Rose at Ancient Child Studios, drop a heavy hint to your significant other, or just up and get one for yourself. I find wearing it empowering--it is such a symbol of rebirth and change. Rebirth and change--essential skills for women everywhere. Men, too. And it's imbued with the beautiful spirit of its creator, who looked at a chrysalis and somehow figured out how to replicate its shimmering color and delicate beauty in glass and gold.

Should you fall for this pendant as I did, tell Jude I sent you. She's the mother of twin toddlers, and can't do the kind of production she once did, but she tells me she's up to the challenge of making a chrysalis just for you. Let's hear it for artists who are also moms**. They do the neatest things, despite it, and, I've discovered, because of it.

**This links to the plot summary of a brand new film I'm dying to see, because Margaret says it's wonderful.
Waiting waiting waiting for it to come out on DVD, 'cuz it ain't coming to the Pioneer Cinema.


I read the "Who does She think she is" book and exellent preceding newspaper column and if the film is half as good it'll be worth a look.

In other news that pendant is teh awesome.

Oh wait I got hte tow completely mixed up and was thinking of "I don't know how she does it" - I'm a fool but the pendant is still awesome.

Been sidelined by a pinched nerve in my neck but had to let you know---I've already ordered TWO chrysalis (and mentioned your name, of course). One for me and one for one of my sisters in Minnesota who will soon be starting radiation treatment for breast cancer. A wonderful symbol for her on her road to recovery. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Oh, lil' possum, you made my day. I love to think of naturegirls everywhere sporting chrysalides around their brave necks. I'm wearing mine right now. I just gave a talk to the Parkersburg WV Garden Club and aired the chrysalis photos--what fun!

Lots of goodness packed into one neat post, Julie! First of all, having just (reluctantly) finished reading all your archives and meeting your family and friends...Liam is so BIG! He and Phoebe seem to have undergone their own transformation in my eyes; a few years' worth of posts and pictures read in a few months' time makes for metamorphosis!
I'm so glad you got your talisman back; what a specific and familiar hurt that is!
Possumlady, I can't think of a better gift for your sister...wishing you both a successful journey. I'm sharing this information with my friend Andrea who is not a mother yet, but is an artist and an art teacher who just finished her first jewelry making class! Cheers to all of is and our various stages :)

I really like your blog. I found it on Pure Water! I'm a Florida blogger who specializes in "water" ... let me know if you have an particularly pressing hydrologic mysteries in Ohio! Thanks, Bob

"Science Chimp has been known to use cast-off cicada skins as earrings and brooches"
(ahhh, my kinda girl!)

...and do you wear those with heels or pumps??? ;-)

Can't fit my opposable big toes into either, Cyberthrush.

Cyberthrush read my mind :o)

I'm off to visit Jude. I love that pendant.

What a beautiful pendant Julie. It looks just like the ones nature makes. I love that Phoebe and Liam have named their chrysalis. :c)

How sweet a post. I love the memories of the wedding. It was the best wedding I've ever been too. Thanks to the great Band and all my wonderful friends.
When you started the first post I was reading it and happened to be wearing my pendant. I am so glad you have completed the circle with Jude Rose. I like her cherry tree pendants. The twins are so big now they were very fresh when you tried to tumble your first pendant.
I am sure that the gold on chrysalises is the gold collected by the fairy and elf miners and leprechauns.
Oh, yesterday Jeff said I made a Liam face! Love to all!

Little Orange Guy says:

"I am in the oil sands
region of Northern Alberta today; yesterday drove through the lunar
landscape of an upgrader facility. (It used to be a wetland.) Wish I had a
chrysalis to remind me of rebirth and (positive) change because it seems
(is) impossible in this place."

Ugh. The Chinese warlords are back, spamming my new and old posts. I haven't got time to moderate, but I'll have to do that again, I fear. Off to West Virginia where Bill and I are presiding at a new bird festival in Berkeley Springs WV this weekend. See you Monday.

How beautiful - the chrysalis, the pendant, the kids, all of it! It's wonderful that Phoebe and Liam are so involved in this whole process. What a memorable experience it will be for them! I'm waiting, waiting, waiting to see O'Connor complete his metamorphosis and fly free! (By the way, is there a way to sex a monarch at this stage? I just think it's funny that both Phoebe and Liam call their chrysalides boys. I hope you didn't address that already and I just missed it somewhere along the line!). Have a good weekend in WV!

What a great post, with chrysalides (is that the plural of chrysalis?), your artwork, your kids,your beautiful pendant, and my high school buddy Lizard (Elizabird these days!), all in one go. Woo-hoo!

Yummmmmmmmmmmmm... I'll be looking for that movie, too! What fun! Thanks.

BTW...considering the caterpillar morphs from one creature into another…I find it astounding they can ‘remember’…in fact learn things as a creepy-crawly that they take into flight!

I had always thought life in the chrysalis a kind of primordial soup, but I guess not, if memories and minds remain.

Who knew?

If Liam gets to looking any more like Bill, he will become a clone.

*And I am printing out a picture of your pendant and leaving it under Geoff's pillow*

Really a beautiful series of blog entries. Fresh air and wonderment for this currently Manhattan-bound boy. Many thanks.

I love your post ~ I am new to the Monarch world. I have had 2 fall seasons of rearing these beauties. I so appreciate reading about your experience and I'm looking forward to ordering my very own chrysalis.

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