Conversation With a Caterpillar


My favorite maple tree has begun to change. Leaves that were green a few days ago are now a peculiar and unattractive shade that hovers between lime green and chrome. It’s October and the seasons are changing.

I am not fond of change. Though I recognize that change is necessary and sometimes even for the good, I like the tried and true.  Routines are like old friends, comfortable and undemanding, and I cling to them like a barnacle. On my morning walk I tend to take the routes that are so familiar that my feet know the way without any active participation from my brain. And though I read the new and well regarded books, I still turn to my old favorites now and then.

In my salad days I craved adventure, delighted in the new and exciting and challenging. These days, though I still enjoy such things, I do not leap out the door at every opportunity (leaping would probably not be so good for my knees, anyway). But whether I will or no, change in this season is everywhere. The sun sets earlier, the winds are cooler. The summer flowers are gone, and thread-thin dragonflies dance amongst the black eyed Susans, which have turned  brown and are ready to seed.

Brace of dragonflies

            Dance against a cooling sun…

            Autumn pas-de-deux

Admittedly, my mood is mournful and mumpish until I meet the caterpillar, a small and undistinguished specimen which is busy spinning itself a cocoon. Since this seems late in the season for this sort of activity, I watch it and wonder whether a caterpillar enjoys change. Surely, if it could think and reason, it wouldn’t relish the idea of being wrapped up like a mummy and suspended from a branch for weeks on end. Amused by the thought, I imagine a conversation:

Me: Why are you working so hard to turn into a mummy case? Didn’t you enjoy being a caterpillar and  chewing up everything green in my garden?

Caterpillar: That’s in the past, yo. Right now I’m late, and it’s your fault. If you’d pulled out your kale earlier I would’ve started building my chrysalis a long time ago.

Me: So you’re twisting yourself inside out for what? Do you even know?

Caterpillar:  I don’t know, all right? But I feel change in the air. If you had a brain, you’d know that and … and not to be rude or anything, but will you please get out of the way so’s  I can get back to work?

There is a great and ancient wisdom in Nature. We call it instinct, but I suspect that instinct is often another word for faith in the unknown. The caterpillar has no idea that at the end of its long and gloomy incarceration it will emerge with wings that will carry it into the sunshine, yet it labors on because something tells it that this is the right thing to do.

So now I am reminded that soon the leaves will have finished turning colors, and I remember that the sun will shine through those leaves so that I can stand, breathless, under a canopy of brightest gold. Soon the October moon will hang low on the horizon with its promise of harvest; the holly berries will blush crimson. Soon there will come that first sun-splashed morning laced with frost. And my complaining knees notwithstanding, I know that I am still ready to leap, to run, to rejoice in all the new and wonderful things that change can bring.

Though the sun has cooled,

            Crickets will still sing praises

            Of the autumn moon.



“Autumn Gold”






About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

6 responses »

  1. Maureen,

    Your writing speaks like poetry. Thanks for sharing with us.

    You refer to your “salad days.” What are you in now?

    Was this quilt inspired by your favorite maple?

    I read an interview between Ralph Fletcher and a Coho Salmon last night. Today, I read one between you and a caterpillar. What’s next? Hmmm….

    Your influence on writers helps change their world. So, indirectly, you do embrace change. We’re all thankful for your help along our path.

    Happy Fall!

  2. Dear Linda, if I have ever been a help, I am grateful beyond words. As for salad days… I don’t think I am QUITE at coffee/tea, but dessert is looming. I do like dessert, though, so that isn’t so bad. I should have a conversation with a dish of ice cream or a slice of cheesecake next….. 🙂

  3. Gorgeous quilt! I like the changing of the seasons … the variety. There is comfort in these rhythms.

    We had some moths that took up residence in our pantry. I was NOT happy about that. I discovered cocoons and caterpillars in several containers that the children had not closed properly.

  4. Dear Maureen,
    The leaves don’t have enough chlorophyll to make them green because there is less sunshine. Perhaps that’s why you’re a little sad, perhaps you need a little more light, too. May your writing and painting be the extra sunshine you need.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

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