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Gynandromorphs The world's largest collection in the Peabody Museum. Dr. Charles Lee Remington, Yale University
Doxocopa sp. The 'Doxy' mentioned in this story

An Asymmetrical Whole

This title is under the Peabody Collection

The Opening Line

For eight weeks he had stayed, inside the canopy leaf chrysalis of his own weaving – a fanciful phrase for the nutshell of a prison he had been forced to create. It was his coming out season, and the painful gyrations of having to hang upside-down in his own closet was no real problem for him, for he enjoyed the flashing of his colors in his own private world. But he knew the time was soon to come. He was ready. Hundreds have come round from lakes afar to witness the spectacle, and partake in his dance.

In preparation, the devotees sat themselves in rings of ardent fervor, encircling the chrysalis from below according to the dictums of some long lost rule book. A slow and steady emergence was expected, an arduous process which marked the most important stage of the adolescent’s life, sometimes made more painful by the carefully timed manipulations of the subject itself. Proper procedures were to be followed, and pious prayers were to be performed. It was after all his coming out event.

Thus the initiation began. The Mother Confessor flitted from each of the five columbines of Prussian and lilac, in opening the dance of the Doxies, gently taking her time in her bid to extend the importance of her own role, less the old religion. Each of the other flowers was lighted by the clueless parents, the tart-tongued chief emeritus, and the fool of a squire chosen simply to elevate the confessor’s position as her dimwitted socially blundering foil. Once the confessor has sized them up to her satisfaction, after the invention of some new pet peeve to befuddle herself with, she raised herself for the ceremonial commencement.

This was known throughout the realm as the dance of the Doxies, and the other species, the birds, the bears, and the squirrels, would come to watch. The transmutation of a body was a grand hour-long performance indeed, tortuous, and the critters would delight over the phantasmagorical powers of such a divine creation, while secretly thanking the gods for freeing them from the gift of pain. And as usual, they all came. Now, the tongues began. All else was silent. The chrysalis rocked from left to right in the motion of a gaily swinging pendulum, a form so unusual it was basically non-existent in the history of any such ceremony. But the show had to go on, and so the dance of the Doxies began. Diaphanous shades of midnight blue flew like magic weaves in an all-round sphere around the sacred chrysalis, while the birds and the squirrels pretended to be respectful by being noisily excitable, while in reality screaming at their tops to disrupt the nuthead’s screeching tongues. The baby bears simply roamed round after the Doxies, oblivious to the musical cacophony.

But something was not right. The self-assumed important roles of the royal five sensed the silence. There was no jolt, shake, or cry emanating from that nested sepulchrum. Thus they went closer upwards, forming a tight round ring at the apex of the chrysalis, ready to peek in. But before the nuthead could open the closet, the new adolescent flung the three leave coverings at the top out in the unhurried form of a spring soiree curtain, while teasingly popping its head out to witness the crowd. And to grand disbelief, he pulled down the remaining leaves with both wings and tossed them outwards in both directions with such fervor everyone, bird, critter, and doxy, froze.

They could not laugh or kill. It was a failure, and the Mother Confessor could well conceal her mounding excitement, what with her expressionless eyes, in the growing exhibition of petrified silence only made polite by the beautiful colors of the doxies’ wings. What they saw shocked them. It was not pretty, or rather, too pretty to be considered such. No, it was not the spectacle. It was the superlative beauty that struck terror in their minds.

It was a mark of defiance. A spot of orange amber naughtily coloring the black and white wing of his newfound emergence on his right side. That little tinge betrayed any sort of tradition and convention they stood for; he was blue on the other side. His parents hastily left the scene, pretending not to bear the shame in front of the old nuthead as she exalted her spirit for the spectacle. Finally, a neat avenue to let her importance shine!

And so the flight of shame took shape. Shame. All it took was for the nuthead to repeat that one singular word, pausing each time for dramatic effect in the happiest day of her life. But he had known. He had foreseen the day and the time. After all, he knew he was different in the crawling days of his leaf-eating childhood, where he would only make edge bites to preserve the uniformity of the particular leaf. And now, when the parade is in full swing, he is beyond care. He took flight and skimpered off, sprightly as a sunning baby bear, with the entire menagerie trailing behind. With each mile they went new creatures came in. Larks, otters, birds of all colors came to join the minor tune and the comical beat, till the entire swarm formed a stream of rainbows from one end of the forest to another.

Time flew anew and he found himself alone. But he did not need them. He had long held his own self, and experienced firsthand the vagaries of foibled life. Two sides combined in one beautiful being, like the powerful men who once ruled on fours before Zeus’ dear ultimatum. A mistake in the creation of the first seeds, led to multiply amid two separate halves. Perhaps it was perceived as an error of life, but not in the eye of nature, for nature designs. The need to have shape, as seen in the geography of any landscape, contrasted to the flat jarring lands of men. Suburbia, cities, and the like – they take a toll on the simplified soul, driven from a desire to understand. But what they do not realize is you can never truly enjoy what you do comprehend. Authors craft the sublime moment, while travelers seek it in the awe of imminent design. It is fleeting and sneaky like the rhythm of a sentence, which flies with the shift of word and meter in no process a word can qualify. And you could even face it in a dish, with an instinctive glide of a chef to play with height and angle in the craft of beauty. Symmetry has never sought to greet the world, for uniformity bores. Shapes and colors were meant to be molded in our own likeness, for their true selves evade our futile search.

Yet the fear lasts. Power is too strong for all, and so the Creator deigned to make the numbers small. And this power does not refer simply to the towers of strength and might, but also to the simple feeling of feeling. To feel something in a different way in addition to the known ways. If trained with wisdom and an enlightened soul, it represents the best of both worlds which others could as well achieve.


The Doxy now sings his own tune as his search is complete, for there was none. He had found his other self, without the need for another, all in his own intuition of living, of finding his own soul. With that done, he is complete. Now he is ready, to find his asymmetrical other whole. And it is this part that so many do not see.


What does it mean for a body to have both male and female colors? Beyond the shocks of alarm and the fears of majesty, we see such a principle of asymmetry as the guiding force in our lives.