Making Time for Caterpillars

downloadYesterday, my fellow fourth grade teacher, Sara, and I met at school and worked in our classrooms. We got a couple of things done together and then puttered about, putting away books (How will kids book shop?), trying to organize desks (Will we have our full class or half our class?) , figuring out new protocols (How will we have morning meetings? What kind of activities can we do? Can kids still “turn and talk”? How do we confer with kids?), and trying not to headspin about all the big unknowns. It was great to be together but stressful to be easing into “school mode” with so many questions swirling.

At one point Sara peered out the window.

“What are they doing?” she asked.

“Who?” I asked, walking over to look.

Outside, well into a marshy area, three of our custodians were walking about, parting the greenery, moving from plant to plant, intently looking at the leaves.

“It looks like they’re picking something,” she said.

“They’ve probably already cleaned everything inside and now they have to pick ticks to prep for us to learn outside,” I joked.

Nikki, our wing’s custodian, wandered over near the classroom window.

“Hey, what are you guys doing?” Sara called.

“Oh, we’re getting monarch caterpillars.”

“Have you found any yet?” I asked.

“Maybe six,” she said. “Missy’s taking them home for her grandchildren.”

“That’s so cool!” Sara and I enthused.

We chatted for a bit and then Nikki moved back to help out with the ongoing caterpillar search. Sara and I turned back to our work, determined to get a bit more done before calling it quits for the day.

On the way home later that afternoon, I stopped by the drive-through at Starbucks. After placing my order, I noticed movement in the small garden under the speaker, and looking closer, saw two little black things wiggling over the top of a leaf. And not just any leaf…A milkweed leaf!

No way!

I glanced behind me. No one was waiting. I put the car in park and hopped out. I stepped into the flower bed and bent over, peeking around the edge of the leaf.

Could it be?

Yes! Sure enough! There was a fat and sassy monarch caterpillar happily munching away. What were the odds?

I snapped a picture and jumped back in the car. As I waited, I forwarded the photo and quickly texted Sara:


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When I got home, there was another text from Sara:

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I smiled immediately, imagining Sara searching for the caterpillar at the drive-through. I thought back to seeing our custodians searching through the leaves. The stress of all the whirling-swirling questions and unknown answers faded slightly. Although I’m still feeling overwhelmed by the thought of returning to school in this uncertain environment, knowing I’m working with people who make time to search for caterpillars makes it just a bit easier.

19 thoughts on “Making Time for Caterpillars

  1. Amanda Potts says:

    This is lovely. It’s just the kind of grounding we all need as we move into the swirl of the unknown. I love how your community grows, how the caterpillar is cause for connections. This is just what I need – a caterpillar hunt as we move inexorably towards Sept.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Gels says:

    I have to agree with Amanda’s earlier comment. Things are in such upheaval right now, and to share a common experience with others is a blessing, especially if the others are the sort who search for caterpillars.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. margaretsmn says:

    I want a t-shirt to wear on the first day that reads, “Take time to search for caterpillars.” I did order a monarch butterfly jean jacket from Georgia VanDerwater as a birthday gift for myself.
    I love the voice in this post, so you and so real.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fran Haley says:

    What a great photo and story! I chuckled as I read, since I, too, have snapped quick shots at drive-throughs: a possum in a tree (!), a man pulling into a parking place, going into his trunk, and pulling out a bag of cat food for the feral cats in a patch of woods (they came right out and seemed to know him). One of the best things about writing is how it makes us better observers of the world. And I can’t help thinking about the monarch butterfly symbolism of how we perceive the world and our place in it, finding contentment with changing perspective… so very fitting for the times.-Happy caterpillaring!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Wow, Fran, you must go to the MOST interesting drive-throughs! lol I think I remember reading your wonderful piece about the man and the cat food. “One of the best things about writing is how it makes us better observers of the world.” YES!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gail Aldous says:

    Molly, I love your voice in your post and how finding a monarch caterpillar gave you the positive connection that you needed. I’m happy the people you work with take time to observe and learn about the amazing monarch. Many people who work with children see wonderments as a child does, which is exactly why they and you are great for kids. I am like you and Fran always stopping, observing, or photographing nature’s wonders. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Gail. There’s so much wonder out there and I think I’m much more tuned in to noticing it now that I’m older. I sometimes wonder what I’ve missed along the way.


  6. katswhiskers says:

    I’m so pleased you and your colleagues/friends found your caterpillars. Joy in small things is joy magnified in troubled times. Thinking of you, my friend – and teachers the world over. May you catch caterpillar moments in multiples throughout the new school year!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Seeking caterpillars, seeing weeds as volunteers. An MBH theme – see joy all around us. It’s there. Keep looking.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Maddy says:

    I enjoyed your post and your connection with your coworker. Good luck this school year. I sense your awe will serve you and your students well.

    Liked by 1 person

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