The tell-tale signs decorate the leaves of the potted basil plants: here and there, on certain leaves, a gathering of black particles, barely more substantial than dust, but far more foul. And, directly above them, the gaping holes that these particles once filled in, that is, before they were gnawed away and passed through the digestive tract of the odious green worm that I am now regarding with murderous intent.
Were I not so filled with loathing, so overcome with desire for revenge, dispatching the lives of these tenacious, basil-devouring fiends would be considerably greater a challenge. Their fat green bodies camouflage effortlessly with the defenseless plant on whose demolition they seem so bent. Finding even one of these abominable beasties requires that I spend several minutes sitting cross-legged on the patio, carefully scrutinizing every inch of the plant, checking under leaves, and suspiciously appraising each uncannily worm-shaped stem. And when, to my surprise and relief, a worm is at last apprehended, there remains the unpleasant task of his execution— specifically, squishing him in a paper towel until he pops and a bright green liquid oozes out. All this would be unbearable were it not for the awareness that my dear basil’s very health depended on it.
It was on one such expedition to rid my poor basil plants of their vile oppressors that I found the chrysalis. Sheltered beneath one of the few uneaten leaves left on the plant, it sat cool, quiet, and defenseless. It had never occurred to me that the worms waging war on my herb garden were anything more than worms. That they might one day be transfigured into butterflies with the capacity to pollinate and contribute to the greater good of my agricultural endeavors was a possibility that had never even entered my mind. Perhaps these worms, if left unsquished, could have grown up to lead more meaningful lives. Perhaps they would have gone from gluttonous grubs to resplendent objects of beauty, capable of evoking joy, even admiration, from the observer.
But perhaps not. Unwilling to take any chances, I scraped the cocoon from the leaf. Whatever creature might have sprung forth from it, no matter how lovely, was not worth the threat of its potential offspring continuing the family legacy of terrorizing my meager basil crop. The leaf, after being thoroughly washed, went into my pasta. The cocoon was relegated to the garbage bin.