Breathe – a sense of wonder!

Life is short – enjoy every moment!

I have been privileged to spend time with young children throughout my adult life: my own, children I have taught, and now my grandchildren. Spending time with young children is one of the best ways of maintaining a sense of wonder and awe in the everyday. Opportunities abound, if one is willing to see the world afresh through their eyes,

to notice:

  • the softness of petals in a newly opened flower
  • the collection of pollen on a bee’s legs as it rests within the flower
  • the snail’s silver trail on the pavement

to question:

  • where the puddle goes after the rain
  • how the toothpaste gets into the tube
  • how aeroplanes stay in the air

 to wonder:

  • why the sky is blue
  • where clouds come from
  • why tigers have stripes and kangaroos hop
  • what came first: the chicken or the egg

One of my favourite ways of bringing the wonders of nature into the classroom is through observations of a live butterfly kit. We would watch the tiny caterpillars hatch, eat voraciously as they grew larger and larger, and then pupate before emerging triumphantly as beautiful butterflies.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

There are many opportunities to notice, to question and to wonder:

  • What will happen if the caterpillars eat all the leaves?
  • How big will the caterpillars grow?
  • How long will it take for the caterpillar to change into a butterfly?
  • How does the caterpillar breathe?
  • Does the caterpillar know it is going to be a butterfly?
  • Does the butterfly remember being a caterpillar?
  • What happens to the caterpillar in the chrysalis?
  • Why do they poo so much?

We got to know that when a caterpillar was ready to pupate, it made a ‘j’ shape, hanging from under a leaf or branch, or from the top of the butterfly house. It would stay that way for a number of hours. Children (and teacher) would sneak over from time to time to see if anything was happening.

As soon as the caterpillar started wriggling, we would quietly rush over to watch as it shed its last skin to become a pupa. It is an amazing spectacle, one that is not often seen “in the wild”. In fact it is a very quick process, and unless someone just happened to be watching at the time, we would miss it. Although we didn’t see every caterpillar pupate, we saw enough to appreciate and wonder.

Equally as exciting was watching a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis. As the time was approaching the chrysalis would become transparent and we could see the shape and colour of the butterfly’s wings through the chrysalis. Watching the butterfly push open the chrysalis and emerge with crumpled wings was amazing. Oftentimes the butterflies would emerge in the mornings before the children arrived. But sometimes they waited, and we all watched as the butterflies pumped up their wings and spread them to dry in readiness for flying.

When the butterflies’ wings were dry and they were almost ready to fly we would remove them from the house. If we timed it just right, we could hold them on our fingers, transferring carefully from fingertip to fingertip without touching the wings. When they were ready to fly, we would go outside and release them. The children loved to look for the butterflies at lunch time and learned that observation was the best way to appreciate them.

varied eggfly

Varied eggfly © NorahColvin

The children’s interest and excitement was shared with anyone who visited the classroom: administrators, other teachers and children, siblings and parents.  I tend to think that the children’s sense of wonder may have ignited a spark in others too.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a breathless moment. Write about life.

Watching the short stages of a butterfly’s life is a good way to get children thinking about life, its beauty and its frailty, its dangers and its strength.  Watching the transformations that take place can certainly take one’s breath away. It is this that has inspired my response to Charli’s challenge.  I hope you enjoy it.

Breaths - life is not measured


I heard the scurry of footsteps. Then he was in the doorway; eyes ablaze, breathless.

“Come … quick … Miss,” he said, punctuating each word with puffs and pants.

Before I had moved, there were others behind him, imploring me to come.

With quickened pace I followed, hoping that I, that all, would be in time.

Others were there already, clustered around. I peered over their heads, expectantly, holding my breath in a vain attempt to make time stand still.

“Ahh!” we breathed in unison and awe as we watched the butterfly emerge from its now transparent shell.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.


22 thoughts on “Breathe – a sense of wonder!

  1. Sherri

    Love this Norah, and thank you for reminding me why I wanted to set up a butterfly garden for my children when they were little and for the good moments we had and the wonder in watching these beauties form and grow and captivate throughout their life cycle and all this taught them, despite some of the issues we had 🙂 I love your flash and the way it captures the tension of the moment, building to the end when ‘Miss’ feels the same breathless wonderment as her class full of wide-eyed children as they witness together the birth of a beautiful butterfly from its cocoon. I am smiling from ear to ear, just lovely this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. julespaige

    We are in similar stages… I too have grandchildren who let me relive natural wonders.
    In another life – really just a long time ago – I was a preschool teacher. And with my own children, we cared for a variety of insects life. Our youngest soon to be thirty (and not living at home anymore) still treats insects with respect. I had to watch his four footed pets the other week and found a chrysalis in a container. He explained they (he and his gal) were cleaning one of their bird or squirrel boxes and ‘it’ was hanging underneath so they ‘saved’ it. You have reminded me to ask him what it was that came out… as I don’t know that yet 😉

    Because Charli gifts us with such detailed openings I too forget sometimes to read her contributions. I didn’t realize that she kept the older post as well as made a new one with the 99 word entries.

    Thank you for your visit, and kind words. ~Jules

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      How wonderful that your children have grown to now be over thirty. I don’t know if your flash was memoir or fiction, but it read like memoir to me. It is a wonderful privilege to have children, and to watch them grow to adulthood, and to be the wonderful caring adults you would have wished them to be, had you wished them to be anything other than happy in themselves. It is a joy. My youngest is a year or two off thirty and my oldest a good bit more! My oldest has two children. The entire family are fascinated by and love the natural world. A few months ago my son and his family found a cocoon in their backyard, which they kept until it emerged. We had great discussions and learned a lot about it. It was a skipper, almost a “new” class of butterfly, one that wraps itself in silky threads but doesn’t quite spin a cocoon. Fascinating. I’d love to know what treasure your son and his gal found.
      Charli does a fantastic job, first of all encouraging all the writers and roping them in, then lassoing all the stories into one compilation for everyone to read. That’s where I found your delightful piece. She did admit to me that she added her flash later on, so i didn’t feel bad missing it with the first few readings! 🙂 Thank you so much for popping by and sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. julespaige

        Writing is fun – especially when I think one can’t tell if it is real or not. My piece was a memoir 😉 Of course we had our share of tough times …Teens. But yes it is rewarding when your children grow into fine adults who you can finally achieve a friendship with. I have two grands by the eldest.

        Just sent the Younger and e-mail asking what his ‘prize’ was 🙂

        By the way Swallowtails like parsley. I has some parsley a few years back in a raised container. I didn’t get much of it that year as the caterpillars ate it all! But I watched all the stages of the Swallowtail caterpillars. But since they crawled away we didn’t get to see them emerge. I would like to think that some of the few I see every now and then in the yard could be relatives of that batch 😉

        I’ve copied your info. So I can find you again. I’m cleaning up my book marks this summer. I don’t follow a whole lot just because I like a clean mail box. But I do hope to read you again.

        I have been trying to remember to put non-fiction with posts that are such. But I don’t always remember. Sometimes I do put ‘fiction’ in the post just so folks know it wasn’t real.

        Cheers ~Jules

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Norah Post author

          I agree that writing is fun, Jules. I’m pleased that I was able to pick the memoir from the fiction. What joy and what pain the children bring! 🙂
          Thank you for that information about the swallowtails. I’m sure you didn’t mind sharing your parsley with their caterpillars. What a shame they crawled away (or maybe hid?) to form their chrysalises. I’m sure those butterflies you now see are part of their family, coming back to visit their ancestral home and show off their beauty for you!
          Thank you for saying you’ll stop by again. It’s been lovely to meet you. I look forward to reading more of your writing also.
          Best wishes. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Breathless « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. TanGental

    oh wow! Eclosion. Haven’t heard that in several decades. Up there with frass, hymenoptra, coleoptra and goodness knows what else. I grew up surrounded by caterpillars and muslin cages. I’ve seen Atlas moths emerge at the end of my bed – they take about twenty minutes – heard a death’s head hawk moth squeak (now that is scary) and come out in a the most horrendous rash from an urticarian caterpillar. Lovely post and thanks for taking me back… (sorry, just showing off really, your flash captures the essence of breathlessness)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Geoff. I think frass was the favourite word of the children. It has rather a nice, polite sound to it. 🙂
      Wow! Atlas moths at the end of your bed. Awesome!
      A squeak from a death’s head hawk moth – that must have been amazing. A urticarian caterpillar – never heard of that one. Although there are many rash causing caterpillars in Australia I’ve managed to avoid them, thankfully.
      You are very welcome to show off. I learned new things, and that’s always good.
      Thanks for your kind words about my flash.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli Mills

    What a wondrous, breathless moment! Great tension in your flash, as if we, the readers, were rushing alongside the characters to see it in time. And, I learned a new word — eclosion. How is it that we ever lose wonder in the first place? And what a fabulous teacher to be, one who still holds wonder and shares it with children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. I’m pleased you enjoyed it. It’s not what I started writing, but I chose light over dark this time. 🙂


  6. macjam47

    I enjoyed reading your post. Your flash moment was lovely. The story of the butterfly’s life cycle was interesting and the videos added a lot. You students are very lucky you are their teacher.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sarah Brentyn

    Great flash. Breathless and life…perfect. Aw, yours is so sweet and hopeful. Ugh. I have to set a challenge for myself to write something nice for a change. So, love the post (and I’m looking at butterfly kits right now — for the school year). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sarah. I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. I set myself the challenge of being sweet for a change away from the Marnie morosity.
      I do so hope you get a butterfly kit. They are indeed “magic”. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Annecdotist

    How well you’ve captured the breathlessness of that beautiful moment both in your post, video and flash. Your photograph of the butterfly – a type I’ve never seen before and certainly not one we get over here – is really impressive. And thanks for teaching me a new word, which I’ll no doubt instantly forget!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. I’m pleased the post and flash worked.
      I wonder which butterfly you mean. The one I used for the quote is a South African butterfly, I think, taken by Glenn when he was over there on a field study tour a year or two ago.
      The varied eggfly is a female that I photographed in our backyard last summer, I think. It is the same variety as we had in the classroom. The males are quite different with beautiful purple spots. For the first few years we had monarchs, which I loved, but could no longer have once I realised their food plant is toxic. The monarch is rather impressive at each life stage; where the eggfly is (don’t say I said so) not quite so colourful or stunning, until the butterfly stage!
      Eclosion is a wonderful word, but I don’t think it’s one we must commit to memory! There are not many opportunities to throw it into everyday conversations.
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  9. Bec

    A wonderful flash! I like the urgency from the student – for something which could seem so unimportant when we lose sight of the incredible phenomena around us in the world!

    Thanks for sharing the videos, they both were great to watch. How remarkable! The students you have taught certainly are very fortunate to have been able to experience the butterfly life cycle. I bet it will be a lasting memory!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Bec. I certainly hope the children got as much out of the butterfly experience as I did! I was still able to marvel at the wonder of it after ten years! Each new class revived the excitement. I never tired of it. We live in an amazing world. 🙂



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