To help us grasp and understand
the experience of transformation
in our own lives,
we called upon Painted Lady Butterflies,
still in chrysalises. 22 golden shells were placed
on tables during the convocation
of NADHM (National Association
of Deaconness, Home Missioner
and Home Missionaries.)
We met at Lake Junaluska, N.C. The thought was
that we would watch the butterflies emerge
as we were looking toward our own
continued transformations. I had seen this
process at another conference, last summer;
then, two of the butterflies emerged before
the conference ended. It was a wonder to watch.

We met over Halloween weekend,
a cooler time; in fact there was snow
on the second day.
We put each chrysalis in a small plastic box,
gave them a cardboard wall to climb,
and each day misted them. They need
a humid environment.
We witnessed change,
as the golden chrysalises lost their color
and we could see more clearly
the scrunched orange and black wings inside.
None emerged before the convocation end.
But in the days that followed,
they did. The first surprised me: I found it
standing on the carpet where I was staying.
Just as I discovered the first two butterflies, a friend
had stopped by for a late-afternoon walk.
Excitedly, we took them out together
and released them into a pile of sun-warmed leaves.
By the time we returned from our walk,
it was dusk,
the temperature had dropped
and the new butterflies had not flown away.
We brought them back in
and I released them the following day when it was warmer.
I watched more closely after that
and each day waited for the temperature outside
to reach 60-65 degrees, the temperature
that gives them the best chance for wings to dry
so they can make their first flight.
Each day, there were new butterflies
and by the end of the week,
all had been released.

The butterfly metamorphosis
was a metaphor
for us humans—and, this was, clearly,
an anthropocentric act. I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again.
But I am grateful to have experienced
the thrill of seeing these tightly-bound lives
emerge from their golden shells,
as beautiful creatures.
(The blood-like liquid on the paper towels
is not actually blood, but a substance that helps them
release from the cocoon.)
Metamorphosis, a wonder,