I stand in the middle of the street with my neck arched upward for dizzying moments. The way they swoop and domino through the sky makes my tummy drop—I am flying with, my heart lifted by their communal dance.
The birds are heading south and the beauty of it breaks my heart.
They are not the only ones. Jeff and I have been enjoying watching the National Geographic Channel’s Great Migrations these past few days. What breathtaking beauty there is in the animal kingdom. What amazing design.
Last night’s episode, Feast or Famine, was difficult to get through. When the baby wildebeest was pulled underwater by the largest crocodile I’ve ever seen, I had to make Jeff turn the channel for a wee bit. Making this even more surreal was the fact that the episode was narrated by Alec Baldwin of Thomas the Tank engine fame.
When my boys were younger, they were Thomas crazy. We had every Thomas movie ever made, I believe. Even the British ones. Alec Baldwin was the narrator for the later episodes. As I listened to his voice narrate Great Migrations, I couldn’t help hearing his voice saying, Gordon was a splendid engine…and other cheeky Thomas dialogue.
My how times do change.
But I digress. As Mr. Baldwin’s aptly punctuated voice narrated the plight of the wildebeest calf, I covered my eyes and said, bring back the butterflies!
The Monarch Butterflies. My favorite.
These gorgeously stenciled vibrantly orange creatures are the reason I let the milkweed invade my flower beds every summer. The milkweed is the only food the Monarch Butterfly larvae eats. I never regret it. But I did not realize the illustrious passports these little flying bits of sunshine must carry. Every fall, the population of Monarch Butterflies that live in Eastern North America migrate to the mountains of central Mexico to flee the approaching frost. The film shots of these–up to 300 million butterflies–hanging heavy on the branches of the old-growth Mexican forests where they winter are a sight to see.
But it is the return journey the following spring that spoke to deep places within. The butterflies that winter in Mexico have a much longer lifespan than those bred in the summer, living around eight to nine months. After the winter is over, they begin the long trip north, believed to be guided by the sun and a circadian clock in their antennae. This generation of Monarchs do not live long enough to make it all the way to Canada, rather, it is the third or fourth generation that arrive at the final destination.
The amazing thing to me is the fact that each generation continues the journey started by the parent, that ancient quest driven by something in the creature’s makeup—something inside urging northward.
I met with the Episcopalians last night. They are teaching me about Contemplative Prayer. We are reading Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault. In this lovely book, Rev. Bourgeault speaks of our inner compass pointing to the magnetic north of God.
This idea, so timely–paired with Great Migrations, stirred something inside of me. The idea of a journey inscribed on my heart—much as with the Monarchs and their passing down the map for their journey from one generation to another—made tremendous sense.
I have always felt the sehnsucht—that longing, that yearning that nothing of this world will satisfy.
This time of year always stirs that wanderlust. Could it be that pull to THE Great Migration? This ever moving closer of my soul to the One who longs to receive it?
I am thinking about the butterflies today. I think, come spring, I’ll cultivate an entire bed of milkweed. Some of us, in our travels, need all the help we can get.