Thursday, March 26, 2020

Sigh baba


No, I'm not sighing because of the Covid-19 situation (which I admit is quite sigh-inducing indeed).

I'm actually talking about Sigh, the butterfly, which we released this morning.

So the other day, my boss' boss was telling me about her lime tree and the caterpillars she sees on them and asked me if I'd like one. Would I like one?! I jumped. Of course I'd like one. Who wouldn't? She knew I'd like one. Six years ago, Xena and I had purchased a caterpillar from a caterpillar farm just to be able to see it go from caterpillar to pupa to butterfly. Xena was tiny then. (She had named that butterfly Lydia, even though we found out later through Google images that it was a male.) I couldn't wait to do it all over again, with an older Xena who understands stuff better and is about to embark on learning about life cycles in Science at school! Talk about timing.

Not to mention that it is the ideal fuss-free pet for people with pet-commitment issues — feed it, admire it and when it turns into a butterfly, just release it.

A few days later, on the 12th of March to be precise, boss' boss walked over with a transparent plastic box with holes on the lid and leaves inside. "OMG!" I shrieked. My audible fawning attracted the attention of my team, who walked over to admire it. Imagine a bunch of Science editors looking at a very hungry caterpillar munching on leaves. Yeah.

And just like that, I had a thought. Maybe I could keep the caterpillar at work instead. It had been an incredibly stressful week at work with 12 books going to press at once. We had worked on a chapter on life cycles together. It would be so wonderful to actually view a real-life 3D version! It would be our team pet, and we could watch it go from caterpillar to pupa and when it turned into a butterfly, we could all walk outside and release it into the big, bad world.

Xena had seen it before. These guys hadn't. So I told them.

"OMG we have to name it!" I asked one of my teammates. "Any clues?"

"Err... Sci?" She said, presumably because it belonged to the Science team.

I misheard her.

"Sigh? I LOVE it! It's the perfect representation of our feelings these last few months."

And so, Sigh it was, much to the amusement of my teammates, especially the babies (interns).

And how Sigh ate. It went through the leaves in the container in half a day and just as I was about to walk to the boss' boss' room to put in a formal request for more leaves (caterpillars are incredibly picky and will only eat the leaves of the kind of plant that the eggs are laid on), the whole Covid-19 thing blew through the roof. It was around 3 pm and we were asked to immediately vacate the premises for disinfection as someone in the office (I don't know who... there are like 500 people in my office) had been sent for Covid-19 testing.

As I packed my stuff, I knew the original plan was off — I couldn't leave Sigh in the office. I didn't know when/whether we'd be going back and it would surely starve to death.

So I got him home.

Except that I don't have any lime trees or lime leaves.

So I used the neighbourhood WhatsApp group for the reason it should be used (forwards on how to beat the Coronovirus with ginger and garlic... not).

One of my neighbours quickly replied and said she had a lime plant. I dashed over and picked up some leaves for Sigh.

It ate and it pooped for days on end. And soon, I had no more leaves. Another neighbour told me that I could get some from the community garden. So Xena and I marched off and came back armed with tons of leaves, which we stored in the refrigerator.

And how it ate and pooped.

Many of us were already working from home by then, but I took regular photos and videos of Sigh and kept the team updated. Watching it goggle the leaves also provided Xena with a lot of indoor entertainment, now that we couldn't go out all that much.

By 17th of March, Sigh had stopped eating, and crawled up the side of the container. From my last butterfly life cycle experience, I knew it was going to pupate very soon.

The next day, 18th March, this is what I saw. The fat, wriggly caterpillar had turned into, err... a green seahorse.

It stayed like that, unmoved by the happenings in the world. In the middle of the chaos, lockdowns, and insanity shaking up the whole world, it was the only thing that stayed unchanged.

Or so it seemed.

By the morning of 26th March, aka today, the pupa had started to become translucent and I could see the markings of the butterfly's wings.

About 2 hours later, the butterfly emerged from the pupa! What a gorgeous little thing, and how phenomenal that this large fluttering butterfly had been all squashed and folded up inside a casing that was a quarter of its size.

I was so glad that both Viv and I were working from home today. If we'd not been around to release it, who knows — it would have died of starvation.

And here's the video of the official 'release', which my team had requested me to take. Xena was in school so she also had to make do with the video.

Bye bye, Sigh! Be good!