During my bike tour to the Pacific northwest, I tried to put out of my mind that I had several mountains to climb to get from central Montana to the Pacific. With each climb I’d find myself grinding away, sometimes at speeds as slow as 4 or 5 miles per hour. On several occasions as the effort became difficult and my speed fell, I would pick up a companion.
As it turns out, butterflies fly at about 6 miles per hour. I’d find myself totally focused, giving it everything I had, and there, flitting around me would be a butterfly. Each time it seemed as if the butterfly was telling me, “See how easy it is?” These encounters would go on for as long as five minutes, welcome diversions from the arduous task at hand.
And my flying companions would remind me of someone.
Four years ago, a friend of a friend died. She was hit by a bus while walking home from a Metro station. It was 2 hours before her 42nd birthday. A Facebook memorial page was started. Many of the postings in her native Spanish referred to la mariposa, the butterfly. Perhaps this was just an obvious reference to rebirth or maybe it was a childhood nickname. Regardless, the upshot of these posts is that whenever I see a butterfly I think of Lorena.
Lorena was going to American University. Younger students and friends would look up to her and ask for advice. Her advice was often couched in three sentences:
Are you happy?
What would make you happy?
Do that with everything you’ve got.
Time and again this summer, mile after mile, I pedaled onward and upward, fulfilling my dream of a lifetime. And when the hills steepened, una mariposa would remind me to give it everything I got.