I wrote to them about my passion for nature and butterflies and the mysterious Monarch Migration. Here’s an excerpt:
When I was just out of high school my mom retired from public library service, bought a conversion van, and drove away from our little log cabin in Stumptown, Virginia. In what I dubbed the Wonder Wagon she traveled forty-one miles from home, got a flat tire, and stopped for the night.
It turned out to be a bit of useful trouble for her, as she quickly discovered an entire network of RVing women who seemed to have unlimited access to tools and tricks and workarounds that she would call upon more than a few times.
Six months later, she’d wound her way across the country to Bellingham, Washington, where she rented a garage, and stayed for another two months. In these pre-cellphone days I’d receive letters with little water-colored vignettes of the San Juan Islands and photos of our joint-custody Great Pyrenees, Blue, looking both exhilarated and bewildered.
I was too cool to miss her, too nervous to fly, and far too short-sighted to see what I was missing out on by not going to visit her on her First Journey.
Some years later my mom got sick. I asked her what adventure she wanted to take before she couldn’t any longer and she said she wanted to see the Grand Canyon. Nine days later she and I stood side by side on the south rim of the canyon, quietly trying to process the immensity of it. It was the first time I’d flown in eleven years, and the first time I was ever genuinely awestruck.
In all the world, no butterflies migrate like the monarchs of North America. They carry a mystery on their wings that may have developed 1.75 million years ago, and that we may never unlock. They fly more than 3,000 miles, across four or five generations, from Mexico to Canada and back. The second, third, and sometimes fourth generations don’t even touch down in Mexico, but somehow they transfer an invisible map down the line so that the final generation, the Methuselahs, find their way home. That is truly awe-striking.
For centuries we curious humans have been chasing these winged marvels, trying to find where they go and why. These days we even stick tiny, numbered tags on them, and release them with a whisper of safe travels, knowing we likely won’t ever know what becomes of the ones we caught. But we grin and wave enthusiastically, squinting into the sky at the embodiment of wonder.
Butterflies will do that to a person. Or hundreds and thousands of people. During my research I discovered that people have donated millions of hours and dollars and miles and seeds, because we all share a spark of the same butterfly wonder. Wonder that manifests itself in poetry and songs, tattoos and tombstones, all manner of tribute to either the symbolism or the mystery—or both– of this little insect.
This is a chance to share in the collective awe of a natural and endangered phenomenon. I love the idea of traveling I-35, the monarch highway, and hearing other people’s stories of astonishment and awe. Little love stories of butterflies and milkweed, and nature.
But then, like a butterfly, my passion for this project fluttered up and I find myself surrounded with books and notes, pondering how to make this adventure happen.
I’ve cut the budget by 75%, continue to revise the plan, and can already see the universe is conspiring to support this adventure!