By Jean Ryan
Imagine a plump green crawler sawing through sassafras leaves, shedding one tight-fitting suit after another, until, with a nudge from nature, it stops chewing and gets down to the business of dying, hanging upside down from whatever’s handy and spinning itself a silky cocoon in which to slowly break apart in its own digestive juices.
And then, in this dead sea, a few new cells start moving. Dormant in the larval stage, they are finally summoned to their jobs: wing tip, leg, antenna, proboscis.
Last summer I watched a Monarch butterfly shrug off its wrapping and slowly unfurl. Butterflies can’t fly right away; their wings need to dry and harden. Knowing this, I pulled up a chair and waited for the brilliant orange creature to take its first flight, which it did within an hour. Can you guess where it flew? Of all the places this insect could have chosen, it sailed right over to me, landing on my chest and staying there long enough for me to wonder if there was purpose involved, some interspecies message my crude senses could not decipher. Maybe it was simply a greeting, one alien hailing another.
Chance or something more? It’s your world, you decide.
Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in coastal Alabama and believes that retirement is highly underrated. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners is her second story collection. Strange Company, a compilation of her nature essays, is available in digital form, paperback and audio. She has also published a novel, Lost Sister. https://jean-ryan.com/