Sometimes our appreciation of a picture is enhanced when we learn the story behind it: how it was photographed, or the larger context in which it took place. A series of pictures, whether seconds or seaons apart, gives us more story than a single image. Gay enjoyed creating photo series and she worked hard to get them right — so that the view of a tree in all 4 seasons feels like a continuous action. A photo series implies action which enhances interest and gives viewers a greater sense of connection with the characters and events thereby creating a more memorable visual image. In "Stories" we share Gay's journals with Sharon's editorial tongue in cheek commentary. We practice our voices, weaving a narrative thread and then trying another as we explore our lives -- finding what we want to say and what we must express. We welcome comments and we hope you will enjoy this experiment of images and text.

Transformation - Butterflies and Caterpillars
(And we thought Midlife was hard!)

By Sharon McDonnell (December 2009)

In sorting and selecting Gay's images of butterflies and caterpillars I began to wonder "what exactly happens inside the chrysalis". The answer is incredible.

My image of frivolous beings is gone. I am slack-jawed with what I learn about butterflies (Lepidoptera). The process of transformation is simply amazing -- science fiction couldn't do better. A caterpillars and butterfly have all the same parts but these parts are formed for completely different life stages and purposes. As one biologist said "Caterpillars are all about eating, and butterflies are all about sex".

The caterpillar molts and then instead of creating new skin it makes a chrysalis. It then digests itself. It melts-- all of it, heart, nervous system, mouth....a partial death. Most of the body breaks down into the "imaginal cells", which are undifferentiated -- like stem cells, they can become any type of cell. The chrysalis is a thimble-sized bag of fluid like a culture media. From this soup, in a matter of weeks or so, it varies with season and species, the imaginal cells put themselves back together into a new shape. This process is hormonally regulated, of course....It is impossible for me to imagine what the caterpillar thinks is going to happen as it heads off to make the chrysalis. But, I suppose granting too much psychology to zoology should be done with caution.

And then what it might it feel like to emerge from the chrysalis state and find yourself transformed into a butterfly (the imago)? It is a vulnerable state. Butterflies have to dry out, pump up and harden their wings and establish circulation, make a proboscis (the tube they use like a straw to feed with), and not get eaten.

"Inside the Chrysalis", by Dr. Lincoln Brower, offers a very nice explanation (complete with audio) of the transformation process.

Freedom may start by feeling terrible. Wet wings, whole body aches, spinning head, confusion, disorientation, gripping on to a stick, and then..... after awhile, your wings dry a bit, and you think ... "maybe I will go suck some juice out of a flower and feel better".

You aren't even sure what a flower is really but the whole idea sounds right.

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