Henry the Butterfly
Social workers are agents of change, and the arrival of spring reminds us that nature provides models of human transformation. Mary Thorne, also known as “the caterpillar caregiver,” recently explained to a class of social work students that caterpillars (like humans) are most vulnerable when they are entering a change process. Ms. Thorne has seen numerous people—of all ages and in many life conditions—undergo personal transformation as they witnessed a caterpillar change into a chrysalis and emerge as a butterfly before their eyes.
Intrigued by Ms. Thorne’s passion for providing a safe space for caterpillars’ metamorphosis, MSSW student Erica Sanchez decided to accept one of the caterpillars offered during the presentation. Erica wrote:
“I brought a caterpillar home to show my teenagers, especially my son who loves all things science. For days, the caterpillar would do nothing but eat! Nonetheless, everyday, the kids and I would sit in awe, mesmerized at this little caterpillar growing bigger and bigger. I found myself sitting in front of the butterfly castle, even after my long days at work and school. Watching the caterpillar day after day somehow made me forget about my daily frustrations from school. So relaxing was the sight that I even looked forward to coming home after my long evenings just to see the caterpillar.
Fifteen days passed, and the caterpillar climbed to the top of the castle. However, my husband pulled it off thinking he would fall. The next day, the caterpillar climbed up the castle once again and started to attach himself to the top of the butterfly castle. It was late that night so we were unable to see him complete the process. By morning he was a complete "J" and hardly moving. That was cool to see. About two weeks later, the chrysalis darkened, and the butterfly emerged, eventually to be given the name “Henry” due to his gender. Once again, Henry’s timing was off. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was off running errands when Henry decided to break out of the chrysalis. However, my son was able to capture Henry on video.
We finally attempted to release Henry early Sunday morning as the temperature was warm. But Henry was reluctant to fly out of his castle, but once he did, he was gone. This whole process was amazing to witness and I never thought I’d say this, but I grew attached to my little Henry. I have planted several Milkweed plants in hopes that butterflies will make a stop on their migration path and lay their eggs on my plants so that once again we can watch another caterpillar undergo metamorphosis.
As a future social worker, I could clearly see the value of having something as small as a caterpillar be therapeutic. I can clearly see how interacting with nature can be used as therapy for many of our future clients.”