I have just returned from five months of solo cross-country travel It was a journey of mythical proportions, a time of gathering medicine to savor in solitude and to share among friends, a time of weaving stories I’ll treasures as secrets for myself as well as bold tales to offer to the world freely. I fell in love. I deepened in kinship with friends old and new. I became ill and nearly died one night. My truck broke down, horribly. I wept beside the ocean and gathered salt from her shores. I came to know and love a great many children and I sang late into the night with a circle of witches I have worked alongside for many lifetimes beyond this one. My trip was many things. It was a reminder of the deep longing which lives within me for home, most of all. A home I am not convinced that I will ever know. But I have already told you that story and it is time now for different tale.
Much about this trip felt pre-destined. As though, I’d dreamt it all long ago, laying in my bed as a child, listening to Joni Mitchell’s warm voice drift from the turn table beside me on the nightstand. This trip was vision that had lived within me for as long as I can recall. On the final day, precisely five months from my departure, I drove east from Balmorhea back toward Austin. Leaving at sunrise and stopping only to gather a few fistfuls sweet-smelling desert vervain, blooming for the second time this year at the first hint of Autumn on the air. I ate her purple flowers one by one as I drove, eager to remember her soothing medicine, and I felt myself at ease as I set out on that final stretch of highway. As I drove, I saw reflected in the pastel palette of the early morning sky, my own sense of completion, and of return. It is an odd thing – at once a privilege and a burden – to live out the dreams you’ve held so dear for so long, and to be forced, finally, to face them by light of day, seeing that they too are just a collection of imperfect moments like any other, unless you choose to savor them, which takes discipline and intention, and a certain degree of safety that I often find it difficult to conjure.
The Monarchs were migrating as I drove on this final day, filling the blue-grey skies all around me. Their journey echoed of my own, as they followed the timeless path of their yearly pilgrimage, listening to the Earth’s pull unquestioningly as they flew South toward Mexico. The route of my trip had been informed by a similarly mysterious and powerful internal compass, which guided me toward places I’d been destined to arrive, in this cycle and season of my own life. The butterflies flew uncharacteristically low, and head on into my truck. Their whisper light bodies of banded black and orange colored the highway-side. By the thousands, they were being hit and killed by semis and sedans – they were being killed by me.
I froze, horrified and completely uncertain of how to act. I had to restrain myself to keep from swerving to avoid them as they flew into my windshield as though it were another dimension, entirely. Hot tears stung my tired face, as the weight of each winged creature fell upon my heart’s conscience. Desperate and frantic, I pulled over to the side of I-10 and began collecting their fragile corpses in my too-small palms. The wind blew hard with each passing semi and their lifeless bodies leapt from my hands as quickly as I’d gathered them. I found a basket and began to fill it, praying hard and crying salty crystal tears upon the hot asphalt as I went. My heart ached palpably as I knelt to collect each winged being. I felt as though I was gathering the tiny fallen angels, and I grieved in confusion with the knowing that I’d have to get back into my truck and continue to drive, headlong into the sacred route their ancient migration followed.