Well, it’s a little difficult to even begin to describe the experience in Mexico. For now, I’ll let these pictures tell the story.
We are done with day 2 of RAGBRAI and I can say that this is more difficut than we thought. Overall, we’ve seen success, in the form of positive comments from folks about the campaign, curiosity about the issues, and willingness to plant. We’ve also had many interesting conversations with scientists, farmers, and people who have some connection of their own to the world of Monarchs. It’s been fascinating to share our story and hear the stories of others. So far, we’ve planted or distributed over 500 seeds, an awesome figure, although only a fraction of the total 12,900 seeds we brought with us. It’s difficult, because neither one of us is very salesman-like. Many folks will ask about my wings, or Carolynn’s t-shirt, and then we strike up a conversation, but we are much more interested in napping after 80 miles on a bike. There have been certain spots across the route that are filled with a good amount of common milkweed, or open fields without crops threatening to be sprayed. This is good!
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.
It’s a little hard to pinpoint exactly where this journey of ours began. Technically, it was about a month ago, when we received our RAGBRAI tickets in the mail and began brainstorming how to give back during the ride. We’ve both always been more or less conscious of the natural world around us and those relationships with nature have been amplified since living in Iowa. Here in the heart of the midwest, there is a sense that people and environment are very intertwined. Maybe it’s because there are very pronounced seasons. Maybe it’s because the weather can change without a moment’s notice. Maybe it’s because wide-open prairies have, for the most part, been replaced with wide-open crops.
Either way, embarking on this Milkweed Matters journey is something about which we are both very passionate and excited. As we talk to more people about the project, gather support, and produce materials, it’s already amazing and inspiring to see the potential we can have here in our Iowa backyard. The issue might be more widespread and daunting than we could ever imagine, but that won’t stop us from doing our part. It’s true: one more milkweed can make all the difference.