A couple weeks ago, I went to see the monarch butterflies in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico.
Ever since I was a little kid, I've had a thing for butterflies. That's because my favorite memories involve chasing them across the wildflower-choked meadows of the Sierra mountains in northern California when my family backpacked there every summer.
The monarchs here can be elusive. If you arrive before the sun is high in the sky, they might still be sleeping in the trees, clustered together with thousands of their butterfly friends for warmth. Or if it's a cold day, they might never really leave the trees.
But if it's a warm and sunny day like the one we were lucky enough to have, then you're treated to the sight of them swooping through the air like little orange fairies with the bright blue sky above.
I've always related to butterflies (I have three of them tattooed on my back, in fact), but even more so now that I've migrated to Mexico temporarily too.
We stayed at a little hotel called JM's Butterfly B&B, which I really liked (except that all the other guests were Americans, and I don't know when I got so snobby about other Americans, but I realized while I was there that they talk really loudly, and that they also never stop talking).
From this scenic and tranquil spot, you hoof it up on horseback or foot to about 10,000 feet, where - if you're lucky - the butterflies will be busily flitting about. And your mouth falls open at the first sight of them, and maybe you cry, and you wander about in a daze for the next couple hours, taking pictures, listening to the delicate whisper of their wings, and feeling really grateful.
Then you come back for tequila shots at sunrise, and eat wine-laden dinners with the other friendly but LOUD Americans and later go to sleep with ALL your clothes on the pretty but unheated rooms.
Meanwhile, the butterflies go back to sleep together in the trees, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them, fighting off the nighttime chill until the sun prompts them to open their wings again.