from my “revisiting” series……

We went to Mexico because of my mother. She wanted to go on a heritage trip. The itinerary was based on her family roots. Then we added a stop in San Miguel de Allende, because we had heard such great things about it. I really wanted to see Oaxaca, and since I was planning the trip, I added that on as well. Including Mexico City would have been too much, forcing us to rush other stops, so we decided to save that for another time.

The trip was for my mother’s birthday. My focus was on making sure she had the experience she wanted. We would eat where she wanted, linger where she wanted, stop when she wanted. I was actually a bit nervous when I recommended we plan a visit to the Monarch Butterfly Nature Reserve. We would have to ascend the mountain on either a horse or donkey, unless we wanted to hike. I wasn’t sure if she would be up for it. But, surprisingly, she was excited about it. She said she had no problem riding a horse or donkey. I never would have guessed that about my mother. She was raised in Texas, but still, she had been a city girl for a very long time.

When we finally made it near the top, at the point where walking was the only option so as not to disturb the butterflies, I raced ahead of my mother and sister, eagerly anticipating what I was about to see. But all I could see were trees. So I walked and walked and walked, wondering when the butterflies would appear. I walked some more. Where were they? Were they simply too hard to see? Was I not seeing something that everyone else could see? Was it like catching fireflies, where they tease you with a brief illumination in the darkness then disappear?

But then I saw one flutter past my face. I paused as I observed its flight path, and suddenly noticed that there were in fact other butterflies weaving amidst the trees. They were heading to the top of the mountain, and I resumed my pace as I followed them. When I reached a clearing at the top, they were everywhere. It was as if the sky was filled with butterfly snowflakes, so numerous that you could actually hear the flapping of their wings. As my mother and sister caught up to me, we stood in silence, joining the other people there who knew that there was no need to speak. People took pictures, but mostly we just observed, trying to comprehend what we were seeing.

As I looked out over the adjoining mountain peaks, feeling like I was standing on top of the world, and possibly even in Shangri-La, I suddenly felt an unexpected presence. I thought of my father. He had a monarch butterfly tattoo on his shoulder. I remember the night he came home with it, when I was only five years old. I especially remember the look on my mother’s face when she saw it. Let’s just say she wasn’t as excited as he was about it. But after his death, the monarch butterfly became symbolic to our family. The funny thing is that I hadn’t really considered this when I planned the trip to Mexico. My father was of Irish descent. The year after he passed away I took a trip to Ireland with my sister. I had never been there before and I was certain that I would feel his presence in the land of his ancestors. I don’t know why I thought that, as he had never been to Ireland either. He was from New York. But in my grief, I was searching for anything that would help me understand his sudden death. I came home from Ireland still full of questions, still wondering where his spirit ended up.

By the time we went to Mexico, I had come to accept that I would never understand why he died when he did. A decade had passed and I knew by now that things just happen sometimes. So I was completely caught off guard to feel his energy in the mountains of Mexico. But once I realized it, I embraced it. It was as if the butterflies had taken all of the distractions that clouded my thoughts and carried them away, allowing me to be open to receiving this new energy. I laughed to myself as I had this realization. Of course my father’s spirit would be in the mountains of Mexico. He loved to travel and explore. Why did I think all those years ago that he would have gone back to his homeland? He would go onward, naturally.

I could have stayed there forever, never again naysaying all the hippies in my life. Perhaps they were right after all. But at some point I had to say goodbye. I said goodbye to the butterflies. I said goodbye to my father. Then I returned to my mother’s side, to assist her on the descent and ask about her thoughts on lunch. It was her trip, after all.