As I prepare myself physically, mentally, and emotionally for the intense and epic journey before me [read: biking 400+ miles across the state of Iowa], I can’t help but think that this RAGBRAI project is just the place we need to start. In light of everything I have learned in the past month about the Monarch butterfly and its journey across three countries, it makes sense that a migration of 10,000 people across the state would be devoted to a migration of 10 million butterflies across the continent. I’ve heard that there are many people who treat RAGBRAI as a sort of dedication to those who have ridden before them. Someone I know has ridden RAGBRAI in honor of his father, who was actually killed on the ride years before. Everyone has their own story, and each one of those stories is beautiful in its own right.
Every Monarch has its own story, yet all of those individual stories connect to form one massively meaningful story for the collection of the entire species. One Monarch is born on a milkweed leaf in Iowa, eats that milkweed for a while, forms a chrysallis and eventually emerges a butterfly. This butterfly might fly to a milkweed a hundred miles away and lay another egg, continuing the cycle of life. Yet, at some point, a Monarch is driven to begin fluttering south, all the way to the Mexican forests. This butterfly has never been to this place, has never breathed its air, or felt the cool breeze carry its almost weightless wings. Yet, it arrives. They all arrive, in fact. Millions of them. Every single year. To the same forest. Without anything to guide them except their own internal compass.
I’ve been listening to my own internal compass lately. The world around me is loud sometimes, and the external noise drowns the directional guide. But, I listen still. And not a passive hearing, but an active listening. I inquire. I trust. And this is how the Milkweed Matters project came to be. This is how it all – everything – comes to be.