“[T]ales of natural emergence [are] far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us.”
—Ursula Goodenough, scientist and religious naturalist
The words “witness butterfly metamorphosis at home” leapt off the educational catalog into my imagination in April. We had begun homeschooling, and I impulsively decided we should get a butterfly garden. It was the end of a long winter; our house felt small as three of us occupied the space twenty-four hours a day.
My partner was not thrilled about adding caterpillars to our household: “You want to raise insects?” I replied that it would be educational, and there would be butterflies.
I wanted to watch something grow, become something new, and then be joyfully released. I needed a reminder of predictable life cycles. I was convinced my child needed this too. One of the great joys of having children in your life is witnessing them explore their intention of becoming. The world is wide open to them and everything is possible. As we get older, our unfolding is not always visible or recognized. Perhaps becoming is just more internal during adulthood.
Anyway, how hard could it be to raise butterflies?
Each night we would place the butterfly garden, angled just so in the window, to catch the morning light. It turned out that becoming a butterfly required sunlight. We did get to “witness metamorphosis at home.” Sometimes it was really gross: chrysalis can be gooey. Once it was almost tragic, as the cat’s fascination took flight and the chrysalis got knocked around. The experience was filled with unexpected drama and fear of failure—yet ultimately, magical and absolutely worth it. The daily shared experience of observing the transformation was salve for our nature-loving souls. Each chrysalis that hatched felt like a miracle.
Emergence, becoming, is inherent in each of us. Often, we forget how miraculous we are. The sheer improbability of our existence escapes us, and we need butterfly garden-shaped reminders. Thank goodness there are small miracles surrounding us.
Give us patience and presence to trust in a world that is still wounded but always worth it. May we know we, too, are a miracle that is unfolding.
Kimberlee Anne Tomczak Carlson
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson (she/her/hers) is honored to serve the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee as the minister of religious education. Kimberlee lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin with her beloved partner Erik, kiddo, cats, kiln, and a whole lotta clay.
Photo by Suzanne D. Williams for Unsplash