7.1 Argentina : The Hungry Little Caterpillar {Based on a True Story}

The grass and trees here momentarily all bloom orange. The worlds most transient blossoms open their tanned unders to reveal tangerine and saffron in a spring loaded pop, then retreats back to brown as you spot it.

Argentina is filled with butterflies.

The summer communitycultural project of Recoleta is El Jardin de Mariposas and between cafes and behind screen doors a patio invites butterflies with sugar water, and on lookers with butterflies.

For most people these insects manage to leave the realm of "bugs" usually reserved for spiders and grasshoppers and find themselves, little pieces of winged-ephemera - as loose pieces of someone's heart. Maybe their last home was in the stomach of a first kissed or a public speaker.

Butterflies have always been a kind of soul-symbol for me. As someone who has struggled to cope with change my whole life I am inspired by something that is defined by a word like "metamorphosis".

When I was old enough that this activity wouldn't spawn the question "where do babies come from?" my mom bought my sister and me a jar of painted lady butterfly larvae. Fat, white, and maggot-like they ate mush and rolled around in their own poo until they became the, hardly better, brown inching caterpillar. They followed the same habits until one day they began standing on their tails and reaching, with dozens of sticky hands, to the lid where they later affixed themselves and began exerting a mucus shell which would cover them as their cocoon.

As weeks passed their cloak became more transparent and the shape of a folded butterfly began to show through darkly. Then, just when we though maybe they had gone in not for a nap but "the big sleep" a dripping of wing paint marked the entrance of a tiny head and feelers, and finally a butterfly.

As an audience member I wanted to tear open the cocoon like a gift on Christmas morning and save the creatures the trouble of shedding their brown ugly casing as they revealed themselves triumphant and a new.

But, I couldn't. A butterfly who is released from its chrysalis, rather than pulling free on its own, will spend its life crippled and with folded wings. It is the final struggle to separate itself from the shell of once was that allows it to fly as it sought to; an intent latent in even the tiny larvae.

Being in Argentina for a week now hasn't always been easy. I really over-packed my stupid backpack, and it's hard when a blank stare is the first response you get when you try to talk to anyone. about anything. But I think of myself like one of those little butterflies sometimes, a post-graduate pupa with nothing in it but potentiality. The past year has closed me up in mistrust and a need for protection - but it is this experience here that will help me shed that and be the kind of free spirited person I've known I was all along.

(photo) Linda Evangelista for Barneys Spring 1992 by Steven Meisel via {this is glamorous}

* You've probably noticed, but this blog isn't being published in 'real time' though I'm doing my best to keep you all updated! I know looking at someone else's 200 vacation pictures of banana slugs is bor-ing but I hope you are enjoying the new angle here at Unconventionally Beautiful.

oh, and we didn't even feel the earthquake! So don't you worry (dad).


  1. beautiful post! i love the symbolism of butterflies, they have always meant so much to me and my own life. i hope you're enjoying yourself on your adventure!

  2. sam i love you so much. i know exactly how you feel, because i too was given a butterfly along with my sisters growing up :) it is such a beautiful metaphor for someone like you. you have a free spirit, but you love and feel so deeply, that at times makes it very difficult to accept and embrace change. i think life is a balance act of learning how to run with those wings that are inherent within someone like us, despite the overwhelming attachments we create with people and places. this post makes me miss you so much.


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