The gift of being human. Chidiogo’s personal essay gives a breath of air to ideas around the unknown knowings of life. Activities that have no language or logic to them but just are. Monarch migration patterns, newborns knowing how to suckle, the abundant energy of a tree. It’s an intergenerational knowledge transfer, perhaps, how we exist unknowingly in cycles?
When a baby is born, it will crawl to the mother’s breasts with eyes that are still not open, and begin to suckle. The mother, in turn, knows how to take care of her child. Is it possible that ours is not a journey of finding the breadcrumbs that lead us to the truths of our humanity, but of unravelling stories that separate us from this?
The gift of being human. This has been the greatest truth that echoes with clarity in the chambers of my heart, the way only truth can. That we are powerful stewards whose steps and actions are guided, if only we listen. That life has divine purpose and all beings matter. That we are all connected by the fabric whose threads are infused with love and the hope for infinite creation.
Every year, when the trees begin to lose their leaves in the Northern Hemisphere, a natural marvel occurs. Billions of Monarch butterflies — the king of butterflies as they are called — travel 3,000 miles across the North American continent, leaving their summer breeding grounds in the Northwest United States and Canada for a winter haven in the southwest of Mexico.
Every winter season, without disruption, these orange-winged monarch butterflies empty into the fir forest of the Sierra Madre hills, deep in central Mexico’s Mountains. They huddle in intricate layers, shimmering clouds of orange and black, filling the air with the melodic fluttering sound of a multitude of butterfly wings.
But at the end of the season, unlike other migratory animals, these individual butterflies never return. Instead, their offspring, their grandchildren, sometimes even great-grand butterflies, will retrace the flow of their ancestors. And the cycle will repeat itself again and again in full display of the interconnected web of continuity that binds them across time.
The great mystery is how butterflies that emerged from their cocoons, deep within the mountains of Mexico, find their way back to a home they never knew? A home thousands of kilometers away. One theory is of an intergenerational transfer of information that is made possible by resins — traces left on the trunks of trees by migrating forbearers. Another theory is that a trail of scent, formed by the minuscule scales of black, gold and orange butterfly wings, falls like glitter through the sky, illuminating the path home. Both are versions of butterfly breadcrumbs left for an unborn generation to follow home.
In thinking about the flight of the monarch, the question that arises is “What are the dots that connect us all?”
Walking through a forest on a warm day during the dry season, I stopped to lay my hands on the impossibly smooth trunk of a rainbow eucalyptus. She was tall, reaching higher than the cranes of the neck could see. A mother tree. I was paying my respect. A friend, observing me, asked me why I did what I did. “Do you feel the energy?”she asked in a heavy French accent. I smiled and responded: “do you feel the energy all around?” She nodded. The calm, beautiful serenity of the forest path is unmistakable. The trees provide this. So yes, I feel the energy. We all do. This is me simply greeting and giving thanks for this. She nodded enthusiastically and approached to lay her hands on the thick branch, sprawled out in splendor. I closed my eyes and quieted my mind.
I once knew a tree in a botanical garden in Geneva. I called her Mother. She was an old oak with branches that let me know that she was infinitely capable of caring for me and all others. All else. I would walk forty-five minutes from my home to visit her. On the curated brown circle around her, filled with her acorns and fallen leaves, I would sit to talk, to listen, to connect. I always left lighter, knowing I had been held. Knowing that I am held.
I remember the first time I met a tree in a vision. I was in a beautiful space, and before me was a little child. Like a boy, but I couldn’t tell. The child led me to a tree in the distance and upon seeing it, I cried. The tree spoke to me saying, “you can always find me.” I knew I had met the same one with whom I spent all those days in the botanical garden. The same one with whom I spend many quiet moments, listening to the voice of my heart.
I smile to know that the breadcrumbs are all around.
Now to trust
and take flight.