September 01, 2012
Its been more than a few times that while driving in between cities butterflies appear around us, and I’ve wondered whether or not they’re coming along for the ride or if its simply normal for them to be in these parts this time of the year. Their timing coincides with the image of the butterfly growing as a symbol of this ride. That is one of the funnest things to experience in organizing – when something begins to take on a life of its own. I love the possibility of an idea, a sense of something and not having a clue what it will become in the end. I am thankful that I am still willing to try things that I don’t have an idea of what the outcome will be. But having a sense of the possibility, and that it could be good, makes taking a chance, the risk is worth it.
That is why as we continue on, the butterfly grows and flutters more and more in my mind. Ever present. Its nature, its essence. The way it has had meaning to cultures and different peoples. The way it develops, a physical manifestation of the quantitative growth of something…step by step by step..so delicate that you can’t always tell its changing; to the qualitative change, when something clicks and that person, place or thing bears little resemblence to its former self.
I remember when we released dozens of live butterflies in downtown Birmingham, and once those butterflies floated out into the streets, it was their show. They landed on the shoulders of police officers, patrol cars, on the camera lenses of photographers and some fluttered away at once. They do what they do. And the wonder in the eyes of all who witnessed it, it was as if somehow we all were children again for a few seconds, and we followed those rules that only children seem to know..lets things be as they are. Be curious before you make conclusions. And we forgot for those few seconds that we were protesting an event where our civil rights were being debated.
A few years ago I took a road trip through Mexico, and I made my way to the Monarch Sanctuary in Michoacan. Every year they migrate across the continent, all the way up to Canada. They return every year, just after the Day of the Dead to the mountainous forest. By sundown, they hung in huge clumps from the trees, in for the night. I was told that at sunrise, a loud wooooosh echos through the forest when they all awake, fluttering in the hundreds of thousands. A gentle, undeniable force.
Recently I was asked how exactly we will be transformed by this journey. I shrugged. How does a caterpillar know what the colors and patterns on its butterfly wings will be? Though it was clear that this journey, with this type of risk would have outcomes, that we all would be different on the other side its difficult to know. Like the butterflies on a Birmingham street, who all found their way, perhaps so will we. It may be the transformation will happen on the ride home, when we all return to what we understand as routine, or perhaps the next time a police car pulls up behind. Not knowing and still doing is a special type of courage. What I do know is that the transformation will be beautiful, and that there are more butterflies coming.