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Last October I brought in several of my potted herbs from outdoors. They got set up in the living room

A few days before Thanksgiving, while I was harvesting thyme from the pot for the turkey brine I noticed a small, green caterpillar among the lemon balm. I was too busy at the moment to do more than note its presence.  Later I returned and snapped a quick photo of it to post to IG with a caption about uninvited visitors.

My original reaction was to take it outside. But it was cold out and I thought of how one of the main themes of Thanksgiving is hospitality. Our caterpillar visitor was just one more guest for the holiday. I had to move it to a jar a couple of days after I had discovered it because it had decimated the lemon balm.

I spent the next several days going out into the yard each day to gather fresh greens for it: grass, creeping Charlie, dandelion leaves, etc. I thought about what hospitality meant: providing a place and comfort to visitors. By the evidence of the black pellets at the bottom of the jar it was clear the caterpillar was enjoying the variety. It grew. I placed a twig in the jar in case it needed something to use as support for its chrysalis.

Days after Thanksgiving had passed, the caterpillar disappeared. It was in the jar, munching on dandelion leaves in the morning. When I checked on it in the afternoon, it was gone. I hadn’t placed a lid on the jar because I wanted there to be enough oxygen. But also, I didn’t want to imply that the caterpillar was some sort of prisoner. It had chosen to come in with the herbs, it should have the freedom to leave if it wanted.

We spent a bit of time searching the shelves for the caterpillar, to no avail. Wherever it went, I hope it found plenty to eat and a safe place to make its cocoon. For myself, I did my bit as host. I provided food and shelter for as long as it was needed. Perhaps come the spring I’ll spot a moth in the living room. Perhaps not. The point is not in being present for the change from caterpillar to moth or in seeing my guest again. The point is in the providing of hospitality. It is the giving of care without expectation of reward.

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