“A monarch caterpillar came to me in a dream. It had the face of my child.” – Susan Michael Barrett
Yes, that is my daughter in the photograph. And yes again, I dreamed she was this striped caterpillar in my garden. Another yes—I admit that there are some people who might view caterpillars as less beautiful and amazing and see this post as corny with a capital “C”. But hang with me.
A little context for the photograph and the following letter—
In September 2013, I attended a silent retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) and experienced a powerful message: if you want to contribute to helping the world, start with yourself. He suggested we breathe, smile, and honor all life. He suggested other practices, and this one— that we write love instead of protest letters. Today in honor of Thay’s 90th birthday I wrote a love letter. This is it:
October 11, 2016
Dear Mr. Niblock,
Last night a monarch caterpillar came to me in a dream. This caterpillar had the face of my child. She joyfully said to me, “Let us find some food and eat.” I said, “Okay, let’s go.” Off we went to eat milkweed in a garden that looked like mine. We ate leaves, chewing slowly and smiling at each other. But then, feeling sick we fell off the milkweed, curled up on the ground. In the dream, I saw my child throwing up green vomit until she was no longer alive.
Waking from that dream, I cried a long time. Then I sat and thought.
Milkweed is the only food a monarch eats. I bought many plants to feed the monarch caterpillars, but they died. Then the monarchs didn’t come to the garden. When I returned to your store and asked why no caterpillars ate the milkweed, I learned that pesticides are sprayed on them because people want to buy plants with blooms and without insects.
After about an hour, I got up and poured myself a drink of water. While drinking it, I realized that what my daughter implied in the dream is true: we can approach our meals with joy and gratitude. It is possible to eat food that is not poisoned.
Mr. Niblock, I think if you let yourself see monarch caterpillars as your children, our children, you’d see how important it is to not spray any being’s food with pesticides. This dream helped me (and I’m hoping it will help you) see things in a new way, a way that allows us to respond differently to insects on plants.
Thank you for your time. Thank you for reading.
Susan Michael Barrett
NOTE: The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation asked people all over the world to submit a video of how we continue Thay in our lives. I submitted this letter. You too can share a message with Thay on FB or social media with the hashtag #ContinuingThay.