Heed the Butterflies

Back in the day when I considered myself a mountain bike racer (even if I DID always finish last), I identified an unusual phenomenon that takes place in the nether regions of my stomach (or maybe it’s the attic of my intestine – who knows?) Every Sunday I would pack the car with race clothes and bike tools and an assortment of water bottles and snacks, and then drive to whatever part of the province was hosting that week’s race. There was always an anxious feeling that started Saturday night when the washed and tuned bicycle was mounted to the roof of my car and those particular butterflies usually lasted until about 2 minutes after I pedaled across the start line. That feeling is one that I’m sure everyone identifies with – the nervous anticipation of writing an exam, visiting the dentist, or waiting for a price on your car repairs.

There was another feeling, though – a feeling that was similar in the way it made my body behave, but different in that it felt a tad more welcome and less scary. This feeling usually came upon me as I pulled into the parking lot at a race and saw the other competitors doing their thing – lubing chains, stretching, eating bananas, spinning back and forth along the road. Initially I thought this feeling was an extension of the first, but I soon came to realize that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t about nerves; rather it related to approaching a scene where I knew I belonged, a group of people I would feel comfortable with and understand. Although anthropologists, sociologists, and biochemists probably have more scientific readings and labels for this physical response, I decided the feeling was excitement at belonging.

Although I’ve experienced the nervous butterflies many times since I formally “retired” from racing, it’s been a while since I’ve felt the belonging butterflies. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been more of a hermit and less interested in social events in the last few years, or maybe it’s because I just don’t need to fit in the way I did in my 20’s and 30’s. Whatever it is, I haven’t really missed it. But today, out of the blue, it was back.

As I went about my regular Saturday errands this morning I pulled into the parking lot of Shur-Gain to pick up some stuff for my beasts. Usually there are a couple of cars in the lot but today it was packed – maybe 15 pickup trucks, all with wooden boxes in the back. Men in plaid shirts, kids and a few women stood around chatting with each other, sitting on tailgates and wandering around peering into boxes. I parked my car and got out, garnering nods and waves from people I had never met. There was that feeling again – whatever was going on I had nothing to do with it, and yet the butterflies in my gut told me I damn well should. I had found myself at an impromptu gathering of farmers – “Pig Day!”, Sydney informed me from inside – and I was excited just to be there, with people doing the very thing that I am working towards.

If ever there was a doubt that farming is the right choice for my future, the butterflies cured that today. My head goes back and forth with the wheres, whys, and hows of making it happen, but there’s nothing more intuitive and telling than those butterflies – even if I’m not sure, it’s obvious that they have no doubt where I belong.

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