Release the caterpillars and the butterflies, and the butterflies with caterpillars in their mouths.
Have you seen my butterfly?
No, I don’t want it back. Trust me—when we were together we had our issues. I remember when it first de-egged itself from my thought hatchery. Woof! Lemme tell ya, it was a wriggly little squirmball of irritation every single one of our days together. A real drama larva. I fed it constantly and with the patience of a saint, allowing it to crawl all over the shrubbery of me. It gnawed and nibbled at my soul and heart and brain until it got so pudgy it had to have a Bex and a good lie down in the House of Chrysalis. Voracious little shit wore me right out! When it did finally eclose and ol’ flutter pants came out to “show me a looksee”, I couldn’t help but say right to its insecty face, “Well, I guess that’s us done then!” before exhaling a sigh of relief so large that when I opened the window to let that sucker go, it sailed right on out upon my breathy draft.
But hey, that’s all just origin story under the bridge.
You must let butterflies go. You know that, right? Don’t keep them locked up in the cage of you. It is their Butterflific destiny to experience the world and flap their little butterfly dust upon the faces of strangers. They yearn to go a basking, a puddling, and a roving. You must let them go.
As a butterfly creator, you too have a yearning. A yearning to know what’s up in the world of your freshly released butterfly. To enquire and to receive reports back on their flight paths. Missives from the field. Notes on how the patterns on their wings are being read. This… does not always go well. You need to be ready for that.
Well, look here! I just got a notification on my phone that someone is tweeting about a releasee of mine. Gosh, I hope they liked my butterfly!
@QnopenothatQ: Your butterfly is a snowflake cuck. Delete your account.
Bygones. [Waves hand dismissively] A response like this is not uncommon, but it does make me wonder exactly what my butterfly is saying out there? Nope, Janeen. Stop right there. Just because you made that little flapper and you know what language you programmed it with when you let it go, doesn’t mean you can police the size of the nets folks are using to trap it, nor the minds of those folks wielding those nets to ensure they’re “getting it”.
The meaning extrapolated from a butterfly is beyond your brain. Butterflies hoe their own rows. This is word salad entomology I can get behind!
That tweet reminds me of a quote: “A writer only begins a book. The reader finishes it.”1 I think that’s what fascinates me most about released butterflies. I can look at it and interpret it one way, and you can see or hear or draw a completely different conclusion from it. Like… what’s an example? “In the garden of eden” sung by the slurring drunk singer becomes “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to the drunken bandmember transcribing the lyrics, which is a much deeper, more mysterious, and dare I say better reading? That’s a terrible example, and I only thought of it because it was loosely associated with butterflies2, but I think what I’m getting at is this:
Butterflies, Iron or otherwise, flap their own meaning. The sound waves they make are not yours to control, or hear. You are just the leaf on which your caterpillar dines. Once it has morphed and flown away, that butterfly is on its own.
What’s that? Oh, look, it’s a sharp-looking young bellhop with an old-timey telegram! I’ve always wanted one of these. Rustles paper. Stares at bellhop. Tips generously because she ain’t no savage.
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM
FROM: RAGE MONARCH
MESSAGE: JUST SAW YOUR BUTTERFLY. STOP. I AM ROPEABLE! STOP. IT SNAPPED THE TRIPWIRE OF MY RAGE. STOP. DO THEY STILL USE THE WORD STOP IN TELEGRAMS ? STOP. WHO CARES? STOP. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. PLEASE. STOP! STOP
No. I don’t think so. I don’t think I will stop. The thing with being a butterfly farmer—or reverse lepidopterist as I sometimes jokingly refer to myself at dinner parties (I’m a real riot to sit next to!)—is that the constant act of releasing them for others to study leaves you personally open to as much vitriol as the butterfly itself may receive. This is natural. The butterfly would not exist without you, so it’s only fair people be able to express exactly what they think of its creator and your output.
But remember this: What they say can be just as easily untrue as true. Comments can be just as easily kind as they are cruel. But the cruel ones will be the ones you gravitate toward, so you might want to work on setting some ATTENTION BOUNDARIES. You don’t have to pay attention to anything randos say about you or your work. Unless they’re a butterfly expert, whom you trust and admire. Unless they’re actually giving good feedback. Then, by all means, lift up your velvet boundary rope, absorb the comment, and jot some notes down in your butterfly journal.
But if it’s stuff like the ol’ telegram above. Bin it. You don't have time to be sinking into a pit of self doubt. You’ve got caterpillars to feed.
You’ll never guess! Someone’s left a note on my windshield. Lovely! A handwritten note. People have lost the art of personal corespondence these days, so this is a real treat.
Stop releasing your butterflies into our yards. They are pests and not native to our area! Their dull colors and lackadasical flaps—no doubt drug altered—drive down property values. Your low-class butterflies would perhaps be happier in a neighborhood that matches their purpose in life, which can only be to encourage the demolition of dreams.
PS: Can you take your bins in as soon as they are emptied and not leave them out on the street for days? It is unsightly.
What a thoughtful note! But I have some thoughts myself. People put a lot of stock into butterflies being zoned correctly. Like they can only exist if the temperatures are perfect and the backdrop is painted to accentuate their particular wing palette. What bollocks. Don’t let anyone tell you where your butterflies belong or do not belong, of if they work or they don’t work. Those folks don’t own the world, just like you don’t own the moon. They say—not the ‘those folks’ of the previous sentence, but the ‘they’ being the Troothsayer, Wikipedia—that the first live performance of Madam Butterfly was a real shitshow because Puccini finished it so late they didn’t have a whole lot of time for rehearsals. And yet, look at it now? A nerd classic! You never know what’s gonna take off.
Some butterflies only live for a couple of days, but some are playing a much longer game. Trust that yours is out there doing its thing for however long it takes. Check in on it from time to time. Let it sit on your hand. You can even touch up a wing or two if you like. Then tell it to eff right off again and both of you, get back to work.
News Report: Santa Cruz Chronicle
RARE BUTTERFLY ALERT
By: Staff Reporter
Onlookers on East Cliff today were astounded to see a rare butterfly containing typos alight upon the head of a small dog, which itself was atop a skateboard. Said local man: “It made me feel funny on my insides and some folks yelled at it, but I took a selfie with it and it was really cool with me.” Said another: “I did not NOT like it exactly, but I don’t think I need to see it again. Six out of ten.”
A street merchant interviewed at the scene after cleanup seemed more receptive, describing the event as akin to watching a gaggle of Wavestorm kooks fighting for a Pleasure Point party wave. “Seriously, I was laughing so hard at that butterfly, I was bent over like a half-shut pocket knife. I’m gonna pin the shit outta this when I get it home.”
If you caught a photo of the East Cliff Butterfly before it was suffocated by the street merchant, please send it to our news desk. We love our community photographers!
That’s more like it. Don’t be afraid to create—put the pupate before the hate and it’ll turn out great. Sometimes. Maybe. Possibly. If you’re lucky. Clipping that one for my files.
You know what? It doesn’t really matter if you’ve seen my butterfly. It’s enough to know that it’s out there somewhere, flapping and flitting and blindly soaring on updrafts. It and all the other ones I’ve released—yes, even the embarrassing ones. The point is not the GPS coordinates of where they are and how they’re doing (although that can be nice and rewarding to know, too.) It’s the act of letting go. The release of your beautiful or ugly or sad or hilarious or murderous butterflies. Because if you keep them in your house too long, they’ll just sit there. Looking pitiful. You have to let them out to go flit about and sit on things and affect those who see them, whether it’s to inspire them or to make them very, very cross.
Being a butterfly farmer is hard. I know. There’s getting the temperature right and feeding the larvae stuff that makes them healthy and honest and true. And then there’s all that time with the chrysalis and wondering what color your little butterfly is going to be, all the while resisting the urge to pick at the shell too early. There’s the violence of its imagination. The sweet twitch of its antennae. And the knowledge, always the knowledge, that your guts are filled with even more tiny caterpillars and that you must constantly be making room and releasing your discomfort by fattening these blighters up until they butterfly bash their way out of your life and into the world.
Sometimes your butterfly won’t look quite right—like it needs one more touch of… something. You’ll be hovering with your hand on the window, ready to reef that pane up, wondering what to do. All the while, you’ll feel the tug of more gut caterpillars wriggling. This sounds gross, but we all have weakling caterpillars that we know aren’t ever gonna make it to that final stage. Find one that’s sort of related and feed it to your not-quite-there butterfly. Think of it as a pre-flight nibble on a side caterpillar from the same garden. Sometimes that’s all your butterfly will need to spool up the invincibility engines and take on the world. Then and only then should you open the window.
May a cross breeze take it on to glory!
The best you can hope for is that one of your little chaotic thought butterflies will flap its wings and that maybe someone somewhere in the world will do something because of it. Maybe they’ll smile. Maybe they’ll laugh or cry or dash off an angry post in the #rippedknitting Reddit thread. Or maybe they’ll think, “She’s quite bad at this butterfly business—I think I can do better!” and they’ll go and try. Every butterfly has its purpose, and I guess it ain’t so bad if one of mine is so shit that it inspires a sort of creative revenge one-up-manship from a stranger.
Have you seen my butterfly? If not, perhaps it’s for the best. For every butterfly that makes it, there’s another that splats on the windshield of failure. Could by yours, could be mine, either way, it’s OK by me.
As long as we keep opening windows.
Yours in tiny thought,
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This week’s amends…
“Once the work is done, it’s not yours anymore. You draw the comic, write the book, make the app, and then it makes its way out into the world. And it starts to talk back to you. It’s the weirdest thing—if the thing you make goes anywhere, it’s because other people carried it.”
- Frank Chimero
I’ve had this saved for so long in my quote files (over seven years!) that the original link to the full piece was 404d. Found it. Recommend reading the whole thing because it’s good. A good kick in the pants.3 Eat the donuts and make the donuts too? He’s speaking my language!
On Rotation: This lil’ butterfly.
There are people who make balloon animals, and then there are people who MAKE BALLOON ANIMALS!. Many, MANY more on this artist’s Instagram.
Via Boing Boing
Cats and dominos. You need this today. Pointless is just what Mondays need.
Via Swiss Miss
Did any of this spark a tiny thought of your own?
This is one of those ‘passes around’ quotes that you’re never quite sure who really said it. It’s most commonly attributed to Samuel Johnson, but who knows. I half looked into it, and am not really satisfied it’s proven or unproven.
Realizing now A Good Kick in the Pants would’ve been an excellent name for this newsletter. You may have this butterfly.