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  • Writer's pictureCassie Stockamp

The Butterfly Migration and Living into the Metaphor

The butterfly migration! I learned about the migratory patterns of the monarchs from the eastern half of North America 15 years ago; a friend was building a home in the mountains of Mexico and talked about its proximity to the Monarch Bio Reserve and generously offered her home to any travelers.

Fast forward to 2024, and I found myself in her absolutely stunning home and then up on the side of that mountain. It was a 2 hour windy drive across the mountain to the “El Rosario” Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. We started out hiking and quickly found ourselves huffing and puffing our way up the side of that  mountain… The elevation started at 10,000’ (3,300 meters) and up we went. Thank god for meds and a hiking stick…

 

The monarchs found in these Sierra Madres are the third and fourth generation of butterflies from those that were here a year ago, and the longest lived of the prior generations. They started their migration from as far away as Eastern Canada (2,000+ miles/3200+ km) last August and instinctually land in the exact same area mid November high up in the mountains as its great-great and sometimes great-great-great grandmother. Truly magical if you consider for a moment that this knowledge has been transferred to their tiny little beings - in their DNA equivalent - and science still hasn’t figured out how…

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou

And the metaphors for my personal life have been pretty apparent. I feel like I’m living the life cycle of the butterfly on this trip and had an inkling it would be like that early on when I listened to a podcast on aging entitled “Midlife Chrysalis.” And it has been a little dark these last few months, but I’ve been here before.


My divorce in 2009 found me reading “Soul Mates” by the former monk Thomas  Moore. This book literally dropped off the shelf at my feet at the second hand book store; that’s how stuff happens to me sometimes. The book had a profound impact on my understanding of the larger context of “relationship”, and I found myself coming out of that dark night of the soul literally on Easter Sunday. Now I’m not a religious person so my parents must have been in town, but on virtually every surface in that Methodist church lay a butterfly. I know, I know it sounds so hokey, but at that moment, I knew my life had just made a dramatic shift for the better. I was coming out of that dark place.

“Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.” Hendry David Thoreau

Fast forward to December, 2023 when I found out that the pain in my hip wasn't going to get better as I have stage 3 osteoarthritis; now this is a first world problem as a new hip can be surgically installed. But this is the first time in my life where I haven’t been able to move in ways I’ve lived my entire life. I can’t even teach yoga or go long distance on a bike for heaven's sake!  It took me years to accept the tomboy that I am, so to have that taken away, even if for a short time, has required some personal reflection about what defines me… It has also given me an opportunity to lean into all the emotional and spiritual healing that needed attention by being forced to slow w a y down… But I digress.


I’ve been here before. In this dark place, not knowing what is happening or what is next. But in every case, I’ve been reborn. In the darkness, it often feels like I’m treading water and nothing is happening, but I’ve learned to trust the process. To know that growth is occurring deep inside. And then, by surprise, you start to feel the stirs of new life. That emerging larvae struggles its way out to grow into that caterpillar, and it's only through the struggle that survival is born. Crazy. Such as in nature mirrors the journey of our human life.

“It is only when the caterpillarness is done that one becomes a butterfly. That again is  part of the paradox. You cannot rip away caterpillarness. The trip occurs in  an unfolding process of which we have no control.” Ram Das

The butterflies start to migrate north from the mountains in Mexico starting in March (toooooo funny, as I just realized I too am leaving mid March and heading north…); the females lay their fertilized eggs ONLY on milkweed plants as they head north, hence one of the reasons for the depletion in their population - a reduction in habitat has occurred along their migratory route. (Department of Transportation please stop mowing the easements to allow this migratory habitat to remain…) The ensuing second and third generations of butterflies make their way north back to their nesting homes only to have the next generation start the trek back to Mexico (or California) late summer.


The cycle starts again.


As we walked up the side of that mountain, we started seeing more mariposas congregating on puddles of water, fluttering in the air and landing on flowers. It was as if the air was alive.


And then we found them. The colony was clustered high up in the trees and the warm sun kissed sky was full of fluttering bodies. Crazy, but it brought tears to my eyes… 

“Over and over in the butterfly we see the idea of transcendence. In the forest we see not the inert but the aspiring. In water that departs forever and forever returns, we experience eternity.” Mary Oliver

Their lives - so short and seemingly simple, yet so magical.

It really is a metaphor on so many levels… 

I’m living it.

Waiting for the path to emerge.

Again.


ps, thank you readers for being my “witness” as I live out loud. Thank you Betty for sharing that notion; you are so missed.

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2 Comments


miarnolt
Feb 17

Changing pace…perhaps.

Stopping…not an option.

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Cassie Stockamp
Cassie Stockamp
Feb 17
Replying to

Perhaps… are you well?

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