Monarch butterflies are extraordinary creatures. Because they cannot withstand freezing temperatures and because their larval food plants only grow in colder climates, they are forced to migrate roughly 4,000 miles round trip each year, covering 80 miles per day. Chances are, if you see a monarch butterfly, it’s in transition. When it stops, it’s not trying to settle down, locate a shade tree, and find a good place to sip nectar and raise a family; it’s just a pause in the journey.
I’ve had a monarch’s life. I grew up in the Air Force and have moved seventeen times. Most people look horrified when I tell them this, but I’ve always loved moving as I love turning to a clean page in my journal. Life’s a stage, and each act of my play has had a new set.
Six years ago, however, I decided to hang up my butterfly wings so that we could settle down, locate a nice house, and raise a family. It felt strange, but I would adjust, I thought. When I learned that the family would never come, I remembered my wings. I felt an overwhelming, strangling restlessness, wanting to leave, to move, to travel. The beautiful three-bedroom house that I had carefully decorated was a chain around my neck holding me down. I got a Masters degree and a new position at work, but it wasn’t enough. It was time to migrate.
In six weeks, Tim and I will be moving to Escondido, California so that he can begin seminary. We’re both excited, but I can’t remember how to finish. I don’t want to just leave. I want to make goodbyes meaningful and I want to come full circle at work and church and home, and I want everything to end perfectly. I can’t remember how to begin, either. I remember hating church visiting. And I have to prove myself all over to a new group of kids whose older siblings I did not teach. I’ve been sedentary too long and I’ve forgotten my migration pattern. Hopefully, I never will forget again.
Do you feel sorry for the monarch butterfly’s gypsy life? I don’t. I think he’s the smartest creature of all. Not belonging anywhere is a small price to pay for having all worlds belong to you.