How much do you know about this whole “caterpillar into butterfly” process?  I’m talking about what happens inside the cocoon, where we can’t watch.  I walked into the bathroom one night last week to find a large and glorious Luna Moth on the wall.  I’d been thinking all winter about something I heard at a Nields’ concert (years back before we could just google any wayward whim of curiosity), how inside the cocoon the caterpillar dissolves into amorphous goo before reassembling as a butterfly.  I’ve clung to that image over the years – a comfort and a morbid fascination – but was it true?

Turns out – yes!  At a certain stage of development, if you cut open the cocoon (or chrysalis, in the case of a butterfly), you’ll find nothing but goo.  The butterfly isn’t a caterpillar who joined weight watchers and sprouted wings – it’s an entirely different sort of creature formed from the same cells.  And even more fascinating (in my world at least) is the fact that in that goo are groups of cells called “imaginal discs” which contain the blueprints for the butterfly eyes, wings, antennae, etc. that sort of summon and organize the rest of the cells to manifest the butterfly.  And, while we’re on the topic of cool butterfly words (this is the blog post where you find out what a total dork I really am), caterpillars molt and the stages are called “instars” – the Luna Moth, for instance, goes through five instars before holing up in its cocoon to dissolve itself with digestive enzymes.  The caterpillars are really big on digestive enzymes because pretty much all they do is walk around and eat – and eating themselves is their last act as a caterpillar!  Luna Moths, on the other hand, have no need of digestive enzymes at all – they only live a week and don’t eat that entire time – they don’t even have a mouth!  They have 7 days to fly around and mate and lay eggs on the undersides of choice leaves, a few at a time (and then they leave a beautiful corpus!)

Monarch butterflies, on the other hand, DO have a digestive system.  When they’re ready to emerge from their chrysalis they take big gulps of air in through tiny holes in the chrysalis, send it into their digestive tract (when horses do this they call it cribbing and it’s an awful habit, when people do it they’re usually trying for a really big burp – mea culpa.)  The Monarch’s digestive tract expands and expands until their body gets so big it breaks free of the cage and voila’ – out comes a butterfly!  (Which still has to sit around breathing and pumping its wings up with fluids for hours until it can actually fly anywhere – nothing like a little anti-climax to remind us to rest.)

Allow me to add one more fascinating factoid to the metaphorical stew I’m simmering in: the Luna, once it crosses the threshold into “mothness”, if it feels threatened inside its cocoon, will squirm about and “produce a noise”.  As I crossed the two month mark without a blog post I got several loving nudges reminding me that I still exist and asking how things are going.  For most of the winter I’ve felt (and acted) like the human form of protoplasmic goo – wallowing in my cocoon (and incredibly grateful to have one!) and digesting.  Now it is May and the deep breaths seem to have worked their magic and I’m clinging here with nascent wings wondering what the imaginal discs have wrought and how to use them.

My point with all of the above is that I’m simply not the same person who rode out from the Apple Farm in Northern California in pouring rain on 10.October, 2011.  I’m not even the same person who rode into Minot, Maine for the Mesannie Wilkins parade on 9.November, 2013.  There is no way to do something as Crazy and soul-bending as spending two+ years crossing a country with a pair of beautiful, brave, opinionated, misfit, loyal, outlaw ponies, having conversations with thousands of people, bearing witness to the State of Our Nation, not via the TV and internet, but literally On The Ground, in the homes and farms and ranches and schools of America, the forests and mountains and deserts and drought, hearing about the struggles of my fellow citizens and being embraced and humbled by the most amazing compassion and hospitality and grace all along the way – there is No Way to experience such a thing and not be Changed.  Deeply.  The roots of the grass.

As the ride drew to a close I was warned by several Long Rider authors that I’d need time before I was ready to write the book.  That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  When I was growing up Grandma wouldn’t let us go swimming right after eating a meal.  (That wasn’t what I wanted to hear either!)  Digestion takes time.  I have greatly appreciated your patience over this past winter as I’ve taken the time to crawl into a cocoon and digest.  Occasionally squirming and “producing a noise” when prodded, I’ve been mostly incommunicado since shortly after I arrived in Big Creek.  If it’s any consolation it’s been right across the board.  I can count the times I’ve voluntarily picked up the ‘phone to call somebody this year and not run out of fingers.  (Most of those have been to Mom and Dad.) And now it’s May.  Half a year gone by.  Whew!  Time to come out of the cave.

Which brings me back to writing – and the blog and the book and probably communication in general.  I’ve been bumping into three interrelated issues.  Courage, Finding “The” Story – and a Scarcity Mentality.  By the latter I mean a worry over writing about something on the blog (or in an article for a magazine, perhaps) that I ought to be “saving” for the book.  Which brings us back to: What is the book About, really?  And, for that matter, what do I do with a Long Ride blog now that I’m not riding any more?  These all dovetail into the deeper issue of Courage (and Good Manners, believe it or not) because I’ve been seriously stressing about losing readers by either offending or boring you!  (And yes, I do recognize the idiocy of making Sure nobody reads me – by simply not writing anything.)

April was National Poetry Month. (Honestly I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean!?)  What it meant in my world was that Orion Magazine, with their powerful spirit of generosity and bridge building, instigated a “poetry exchange” – offering to connect random pairs of poets via either e-mail or snail mail.  I sent in my name and contact information and was given the name and address of a woman in Middletown, California.  Of course I now had to write a poem and put it in an envelope and send it to a stranger.  Which I did – in pencil on several pages of a yellow legal pad.  That poem was my most recent post – and sure enough – I lost a follower!  Ouch!  Then, later the same day, somebody new found my blog and clicked on the “follow” button – which helped me to realize that it’ll all balance out (and I need to stop worrying about that end of things so much).  The poem I received from California was a piece of art with pictures as well as words and real parsnip seeds on page two.  I’m not much of an artist, but that poem encouraged me to up my game a bit and I’ll share the results with my next blog post.

A friend recently sent me a copy of On Writing Well by William Zinsser.  The sentences that I’ve been chewing on for the last week are these: “Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.  Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.  Use its energy to keep you going.”  So – wish me Courage!  While I continue to wrestle with the larger issue of “the book” I’m going to attempt to use the blog to perform an end run around the writer’s block.  I’m going to remember that this is my blog – and use this space to explore and share what I’ve learned and who I’ve become since the Long Ride.  I’m also going to use this space to hone my skills as a writer (and maybe even a photographer) – because all of those are ways of giving back.  Beyond that I have no idea how the blog is going to evolve.  I hope you’ll stick around for the adventure/experiment.  More soon – meanwhile it’s time to go outside and play in the dirt for awhile.












About Sea G Rhydr

Sea G Rhydr and her trusty steeds, Jesse James and Finehorn - embarking on a grand adventure to cross America.
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15 Responses to Cocoon

  1. S. Lanum says:

    Well – Sea- as to writing – I do my best stories when I lie down at night -and can’t seem to drop right off to sleep. Therefore – I have an easily reached pin-up lamp above my headboard and pen and paper on my nightstand. That way – ideas that can later become fleshed out in broad daylight are not erased by sleep. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column for our weekly paper for 14 years – mostly using my kids (all 12 of them!) as subject matter. So my advice – small happenings can eventually be recalled and fleshed out to become fascinating short stories-which can become a longer narrative. Think short-term and then elongate it.-one day at a time- something new will always occur to you. A friend you never met.

  2. Cathy H says:

    Dear Sea, I have not commented on every posting, but I gratefully read each one! Trust me, you do not need to read books on how to be a better writer!!! Please don’t change a thing. I met you briefly in Bristol, NY as you and your horses headed to Cheshire for the night. I have since read Ms. Wilkins’ book, and I thank you for letting me know it existed. I will patiently wait for your book, and in the mean time please continue the blog.
    I am also a “dork” and hesitated to get a computer and smart phone, fearing that I would constantly be looking things up. Just thought you’d like to know that there are other horse loving dorks who enjoy your musings and hearing about your journey.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  3. Marianne says:

    Great to hear you again Sea! This post brings to mind one of my all time favorite pieces of writing… Holy The Firm by Annie Dillard. You have an awesome voice in print. I’m hungry for more. (No pressure… 😉)

  4. AngiRivier says:

    Well my lovely friend, being the fortunate recipient of a visit from a Luna Moth last year (in my bedroom no less… could it have picked a more boring place to spend it’s short life?!)… I can practically feel your joy at this special encounter. I am thrilled to read your words once again, and anxiously await more more more (as always). Quite proud to see my muddy boot made it into the photo collage… makes me feel rather (egotistically) special… not to mention making me miss you guys even more than I already to. Summer’s a-comin’ !!

    I have been pitifully absent from the blog-o-sphere myself… school keeps me far too busy right now. But your words have encouraged me to get back on the horse (insert appropriate pun remark here).

    Wishing the whole rodeo all the very best… your Canadian Connection (it’s above zero here and we have sun!!!) Angelo xo

  5. Linda says:

    I wish you Courage and new adventures as sometimes the best adventures are happening right there in front of you! I will read your blog until there is no more and I pray that doesnt happen…

  6. Loved reading this! The gift He’s given you is meant to be shared. Keep writing. Keep sharing.


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  7. Joy says:

    YEA!! So glad to read about your continued observations of life and yourself. I see from your pictures that your ‘farmily’
    just keeps growing. Does the opossum lived with you and the herd? Does he have a name?

  8. asleepintheboat says:

    I’m in. Keep it coming!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Marilyn Mills says:

    you might or might not be interested in reading this article..this lady rode a horse from Oregon, I think, all the way to Maine last yr..or I think it took her a year. I had kept up with her blogs starting when she came thru La. last yr, and Judi and Ricky were down there visiting and camping with some friends and saw her and found out a little about what she was doing. I started reading her weekly blogs on her journey.. anyway I think she ended up buying an old farm somewhere in the south, i forgot where, may be MIss Georgia, I forget..

  10. John Martin says:

    When two ladies on horse back rode thru Llano like a modern day Lone Ranger and Tonto, I knew something was funny about their names. Hungry for some new friends and a place to crash for a bit, and above all, B R O C C O L I! We, the horseless of our small community, freely gave and got much in return. I am a better person for helping strangers that had become Pioneers born hundreds of years too late. We all fell in love with them both.

    Now then I read that CGR is repetitious about finishing this journey. Yes, she is one of the best writers I have had the good fortune to allow into my special world of those who would take me where I could never go all by myself. And she hesitates. Did Mark Twain or Conan Doyle hesitate? If so, we would never have heard of Tom Sawyer of the great Shurlock Holmes! The Mississippi would be nothing more than another muddy creek, and who would know where 221B Baker Street is?

    Your story could well be one of a triumphant trek across this wondrous place called the USA. Visiting those places and real folks that we cannot. Finding the worlds most generous, most interesting and yes most jealous people along the way. The blogs have been just bits and pieces of that journey. Now is the time to share with us the all the experiences, using the skills you possess as an author, pioneer and great modern day explorer. So spin your yarn. Tell us of your inner ups and downs. When you were most happy and most afraid. Who and what you missed the most. What did you think of when you lay under the stars. Only you can do this, and books are forever. Make the world envy you. Only then have you completed your mission.

    • Constancia says:

      I couldn’t have expressed it better, John! So glad we had a corral for the horses when they came to Llano with the two adventurers!

      • John Martin says:

        You and Robert were a guiding force for all of us.

      • Gryph Rhydr says:

        ok – John, Constancia, Anybody Else who wants to weigh in here –
        LLano and the amazing angels who live there was a whole chapter –
        AND –
        Llano was a few days out of a couple of Years!
        Sooo, sooo, sooo, sooo MUCH!!!
        What do I leave out!?!

        • John Martin says:

          Nothing. An adventure is not to be chopped here and there like a side of beef!. While a name or two might be changed, your readers would appreciate being drawn in to your fears and tears, and being made to feel their own. Make them see what you saw, intensely feel your trepidation or exaltation. Make them see, hear and feel those trucks barreling by at warp nine and scaring the hell out of your exhausted ponys, and yourself. How about dawn, somewhere in the high country when nothing moved except the golden sun, in a hurry to wake up the rest of the world., or those shivering nights when you had little to keep your herd or yourself warm. Leave nothing out, even if you have to embellish occasionally. Every time I tell a story, the girl gets just a little more beautiful, a waitress may become a beautiful Indian maiden. Tell your story now, while it is fresh, and you can still feel it.

  11. Debbie White says:

    Girl thank you again for the massage! Today was told that u have carpal Tunnel! I am still in pain and it’s worse at night when trying to sleep! Debbie

    Sent from my iPhone

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