Monarch Chrysalis

By Molly Butler

During the pupal stage, all holometabolous insects become liquid.

The amorphous blob, the “caterpillar goo,” is unrecognizable. If you were to open the cocoon in this phase, you would be greeted by a soupy, disgusting goo. All this to say: pardon me. Lately, I have felt like goo.

I’ve been feeling uncertain. “Uncertain about what?” Great question; I’m so glad I asked. But if I knew, there wouldn’t be much of a problem, would there?

In his book, “The Sun My Heart,” Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Our mind creates categories- space and time, above and below, inside and outside, myself and others, cause and effect, birth and death, one and many- and puts all physical and psychological phenomena into categories like these before examining them and trying to find their true nature.” Now, get this. “It is like filling many different shapes and sizes of bottles with water in order to find out the shape and size of water.” Uffda.

The goo is digested and cannot be reconstructed. To a caterpillar, it must feel a bit like the end of the world. Being nothing is pretty scary, especially compared to being something. Do you think that when the caterpillar zips up the cocoon and settles in for its transformation, it knows what will happen to it? I mean, it must know, somehow, otherwise it wouldn’t be doing all this. But not the way we know, not logically, not measurably. A caterpillar can’t pass a biology test. Yet, there are butterflies.

One gets very comfortable in their container, especially if they’ve got a nice one. One’s income, country, family, home, haircut, car, religion or lack thereof, ideologies, opinions and the people willing to listen to them. It’s all pretty spiffy. It’s good to feel oriented, to know up from down. Sometimes, a container shatters; a divorce, a house fire, a change in health status, and one gets to work building a shiny new one. A job. A title. An accomplishment. A vacation. A home. A friend. A poem. This is all also good. Change, growth, it’s all very familiar and human. But sometimes, one looks at all the containers of their life and thinks, “Oh sh*t. This isn’t about the containers at all, is it?” Oh, dear. What now? “Keep Calm and Carry On,” as George Orwell’s 1984 “The Ministry of Truth” instructs.

Being nothing is pretty scary, especially compared to being something.

What if we got a tiny microphone and learned to speak caterpillar, and as it was sewing together the last of its cocoon, we got down there and asked, “Excuse me, what are you doing?” Would the caterpillar say something cryptic and concerning to our logical minds? Maybe, “Acting on faith,” or “Obviously, I am dying,” or “Who are you and why are you bothering a caterpillar?” Maybe, it would recite a beautiful poem. Maybe it would just have a good last laugh and then become goo. Who knows? This interview is, for now, theoretical.

I went driving around looking for some clarity. I pulled over in a neighborhood, parked in the shade of a tree to take a few mindful breaths to clear my head. As I sat, waiting for anything, a forklift came rumbling down the road, holding a great big tub. It rolled up alongside my car, turned and promptly dropped the container, spilling wet concrete all over the ground, splattering my car. When it comes to signs, it doesn’t get much more unclear than that. I didn’t stick around waiting for another; when signs start dropping off forklifts, it’s time to stop looking and get out of the way.

It turns out the final form, the butterfly structures, the goo, are contained within the caterpillar the entire time, hidden in a minuscule sack of cells. Like, 10 cells. “Imaginal discs,” they’re called. Magic, actually. And they contain everything: the egg, the larva, the caterpillar, the goo. It was a butterfly the whole time, silly us.

The containers change; the water is always there.

Oh, and, due to goo, I will be taking the rest of the month off from writing this column. Don’t worry, the calendar, events and all the signs you need are there, if you look for them. As always, have a wonderful weekend, my friends.


The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota invites you to a STEAM-Powered Friday! From 10 a.m. to noon, stop by for the first event in their July Friday schedule with Wheels and Rotation!

Enjoy a Casual Friday Slow Roll Bike Ride from 6-8 p.m. with the good folks at Nicollet Bike & Ski! This casual pace and attire ride will wind through bike lanes and trails, ending with drinks and socializing!

Mully’s will host GTX beginning at 8:30 p.m., and Sarah and the Houligans will be at the Wine Café in Old town for Friday Happy Hour from 5-7 p.m.


The Nicollet Bike & Ski Saturday Gravel Ride takes off at 7 a.m. sharp! Enjoy a 25-40 mile ride at a 15-18 mph pace with friends and the open gravel road! Gravel or Cyclocross bikes are recommended!

The Mankato Farmers’ Market will be open in the Best Buy parking lot from 8 a.m. to noon, and it’s Foodie Friday at the Mankato Brewery. This week, enjoy River City Eatery, serving up great food from 3-7 p.m.

Animal lovers have a lot to look forward to this weekend! Goats are visiting the Alltech Farm Animal Experience at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota! Stop by from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a meet and greet with the adorable goats from O’Malley Farm LLC. Then stick around; from 1-3 p.m., you can interact with real live butterflies at the Children’s Museum Butterfly House! Learn about the important role Monarch butterflies play in pollination, and check out all the great interactive info available in the Ag and Nature lab!

Catch a whole bunch of live music at the Circle Inn beginning at 4:30 p.m. Nate Boots, Mal Murphy, Ben Scruggs and other local musicians will be performing. Wizzerd and Loadie will be performing at Nakato beginning at 9:30 p.m.! This FREE show will start your 4th of July weekend with a bang!


Hop on your bike and join Nicollet Bike & Ski in Rides for Rolls on the first Sunday of every month! The ride leaves the shop at 8 a.m. and takes the 25-ish mile gravement (gravel + pavement) ride to a breakfast stop at the St. Peter Food Co-Op, led by the fearless leader, Aaron Buege. Don’t miss out on the fun!

Schell’s Summer Music Series continues at the brewery in New Ulm from 1-4:30 p.m. with music by Alpensterne and food by Sozial.

Added Value: Everything’s Made to be Broken

Ladies and gentlemen, the Goo Goo Dolls.


Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.