My Inspiration

My inspiration for writing “The Ugly Caterpillar, A True Story”

Several years ago, a mother and her bright, articulate, very inquisitive 4-year-old daughter visited the Butterfly Garden at the North Carolina Zoo where I was volunteering. Both mother and daughter had many questions for me about the caterpillars in the exhibit, what they were eating, and why. During their visit, Mom pointed out to daughter several times that these caterpillars would turn into cocoons and then butterflies. After I gently corrected her terminology from cocoon to chrysalis, the third time, she replied with great surprise, “Oh really? The book we are reading said butterflies come from cocoons.”

photo of butterfly
The great interest this mother and daughter exhibited about the true life cycle of butterflies left me thinking, people who are curious about butterflies certainly deserve better than that. The Ugly Caterpillar depicts the accurate life cycle of the Red-spotted Purple butterfly, with illustrations based on my photographs. It uses correct terminology and explains the importance of host plants. This book was inspired by that incident.

All I know about butterflies has been learned through observation. Watching butterflies hover around specific plants with no flowers, I learned they were laying eggs. I brought in the eggs, raised the caterpillars, learned what the chrysalis looked like, and saw the butterflies emerge. How delightful it was to let them crawl on my finger, take them outside, and watch them gently flutter away. So, now I know the entire life cycle and can identify egg, host plant, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. With time, you, your children, and your grandchildren can develop an acute awareness of your surroundings, making discoveries of your own.

You may think it a luxury to have time to look and to listen. But take just 15 minutes – treat your mind, body, and spirit to a garden walk, or find a quiet place to sit. What do you see? What do you hear? Investigate sounds. Absorb what is there. Nature has many delightful surprises in store for you. Besides tranquility, you will discover all kinds of sights and sounds that before had gone unnoticed. Observation is a wonderful teacher, and ever so quietly, ever so gently, it will beckon you to accept this invitation and become involved in many delightful secrets Mother Nature has to offer. Observation isn’t a luxury, it is a gift; just untie the ribbons.