We ate sitting cross legged on the floor, the lentils on a metal plate and the fresh bread handed out from giant wicker baskets. We were in long rows; 40,000 people pass through on a normal day, 100,000 on a holiday. I had spent the morning circumnavigating the Golden Temple and being pulled into photos with Sikh family groups of 20 or more. The temple sits in the middle of a pool of water. It’s in northern India, near the Pakistan border and has been there since before India and Pakistan were designated as such.
Part of a pilgrimage is the faith that while you seek, food and shelter present themselves. The Camino De Santiago, The Kumano Kudo, trails we make up and find ourselves. A friend biked across America collecting jokes and camping in people’s yards. I went on a date with a boy in college who had hitchhiked home and bivouacked in elementary school yards.
Monarchs migrate up and down the Americas, traveling 50 – 100 miles a day. They use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, they rely on certain ecosystems. The larvae only eat milkweed, they winter in the Oyamel forests of Mexico. Pilgrims with faith.
Interstate 35 runs from Duluth, Minnesota to Texas along a monarch path – or it is the path that the government can regulate. The transect of states have agreed to grow butterfly friendly plants alongside the racing cars and trucks.
For a pilgrimage, part is what is provided by safe spaces, part is faith or what we imagine. Isn’t our greatest fear that faith is nothing but imagination?
Materials: Milkweed from by the Mississippi River and Golden matte medium
When I’m used to the same environment, living in it, walking through it, over time, I start to notice small responses. After rainfall: communities of mushrooms, a transformer blown and never replaced, striated mud, false widows (S grossa – my favorite) suspended blind and upside down.
I like to look at the mushrooms, their gills, color, presence of annulus or volva. They’re so connected to rot that I think many people find them distasteful; they’re symbols of the world seeping, liquescing, going under.
Fungi watch and wait in their way, form a vast communicative web beneath the soil’s surface, and when they emerge, offer nourishment to the pollinators that girds their immunity to toxins, furthers life and decay at once.
It’s all in the form, the response: mushrooms on rotting wood for bees so they can withstand all that’s against them. I once heard a pharmacist say that medicine is just enough poison to coax the body into doing what it ought.
At night, the white and sweetly smelling flowers shaped like sherry glasses bloom. Many, like the starkly white mushroom Amanita bisporigera (or destroying angel), are poisonous, though their scents, intended to draw bats and moths in the dark of night and poor vision, are said to be aphrodisiacs. I love that sometimes we forget what we are.
Materials: Pigma Micron .01 black and watered-down gouache