Summoning the Little Boy

Monarch caterpillar on Asclepias leaf, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Just as quickly as I just opened this image of a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, the Little Boy in me showed up, summoned by the Mystery of this phenomenon. At the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in Eatonton, Georgia.

We have photos in my archival photo albums, of Jeff as a boy, in Brooklyn, at the beach at Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York and at the other side of that Peninsula, at the water’s edge of the bay. I have photos of Jeff on Grand Bahama Island, turning over rocks, searching for living things. That has long been a family giggle, Jeff, Dad, examine, searching, following, studying living things, usually bent over, crouching.

This Danaus plexippus caterpillar just mesmerizes me. The color, the body plan, those true and false legs, its slow, plodding movement, that slower, carefree feeding. How it’s goes through instars, how it seemed too big to exit from its tiny egg. I grew up in Brooklyn, on the streets, and it took several years, when I moved to Pittsburgh, for me to lessen the need to always know who was behind me . . . and this larva packs its own defenses, without need to carry cold steel just in case. How with so many predators in its neighborhood, it has reached this level of success?

I’m telling you, this image just summons the Little Boy in me. Forget the image of me you’ve seen, that Little Boy is just . . . .

Jeff