One of the unique benefits of being an independent distributor with USANA is the opportunity to travel to Conventions and Regional Celebrations to not only celebrate all that USANA is but also to experience the joy, traditions and colorful atmosphere of cities around the world.
My husband Ric and I spent last week in Morelia. Built in the 16th century, Morelia is an enchanting city – a World Heritage Site – deep in the heart of Mexico. The city is surrounded by hills and a dormant volcano – and I can personally verify there is a very steep trail that goes to the top where you’ll literally stumble across some very interesting homemade shrines. Morelia has more than 200 historic architectural treasures, all fashioned from the region’s pink stone. Ric and I spent one entire day walking through the city, visiting cathedrals, fountains, the aqueduct, and feasting on regional cuisine. We have mouth-watering Mexican food here in San Diego…but I’ve never tasted better carne asada than what I had in Morelia.
Although my primary purpose for visiting Morelia was to participate in the USANA Celebration with the warm, hospitable distributors from Mexico; from the moment USANA announced this Celebration those same distributors had been writing me, urging me to visit one of the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the area. As has happened so many times over the past sixteen years (since USANA opened my eyes to all the possibilities out there) I said, “Why not?”
As it turned out, the morning we were set to go, Ric didn’t feel well and when he learned we would be driving about two-and-a-half hours up winding, twisty roads to get where we needed to be, he opted out. Yes, I probably should have stayed behind to dote on him…but I didn’t.
Instead, I hired a nice young man with a decent car to be my guide for the day and we headed out for the Oyamel Forests at about 10,000 feet to see what I can’t possibly describe – but fortunately, I took pictures – although even pictures don’t do the experience justice which you will understand if you’ve ever tried to photograph swirling butterflies in a forest against a brilliant sunny sky.
A little background about Monarchs that I learned from my guide, Michael…who spoke broken English so I’m not sure it’s completely accurate:
Every autumn approximately 120 to 150 million (but who’s counting?) monarch butterflies migrate from the freezing temperatures in Canada and the Northern U.S. to the mountains east of Morelia. This annual migration is about 2,500 miles and the monarchs migrate in order to reproduce. The males die after mating, the females return to the U.S. and Canada to lay their eggs and then die as well. None of them ever live long enough to make a repeat trip. So, let me ask you…how do they possibly know where to go? I had a little trouble getting my head around this, but I guess it’s just one of those wonderful mysteries of nature. For me, simply more evidence that there is a Grand Design to this amazing mortal experience.
The road ends at a tiny settlement (where you must pay two pesos for one teensy sheet of toilet tissue that accompanies additional privileges) about an hour hike from where the butterflies were promised to be. I was slightly car sick and just a titch concerned because to that point I’d only seen two or three butterflies – pretty much what I can see in my garden at home. Michael assured me I would see thousands of them bunched together in the tops of the fir trees and suggested I take one of the horses the locals were willing to rent for an additional pittance in order to make it to the summit.
“No way, Jose!” You see, I’ve been in training since January 1 and I hike almost every single day. I’m trekking to the base camp of Mt. Everest with Werner Berger, my sons and a bunch of other extremely fit USANA distributors in May and this was a perfect opportunity to test out my newfound strength at altitude. I came prepared with hiking boots, thick wool socks, poles, gloves, my USANA visor, my Camelbak, etc. and after about fifteen minutes I cried “Uncle!” Wow, air is REALLY thin at 10,000 feet! I’d like to say the beauty of the butterflies took my breath away, but I’m afraid I didn’t have much breath to offer at that point. Fortunately, the young boy with the horse (with a wooden saddle – ouch!) had followed me just in case. I have a feeling I’m not the first over-confident city slicker in that neck of the woods.
As I neared the summit the path narrowed and I had to dismount to walk the remainder of the way. I should mention that my guide Michael, along with our local guide who only accompanied us because that is the only way a person living in that area who doesn’t own a horse can make any money – an elderly woman about half my height wearing two sweaters a long skirt and some loafers walked the entire way and were not far behind me and my sturdy mount. Very humbling.
At first I thought brightly colored leaves were fluttering from the trees. Butterflies everywhere! They clung to the branches of the fir trees by the thousands. And then, as we walked along this narrow trail all of a sudden there were four Mexican men leaning against a rock next to a piece of lumber thrown across our path. Michael explained this was as far as we could go. Now, don’t get me wrong – it was spectacular. Butterflies were alighting on me. But just down the path a couple hundred yards they were swirling, dancing, catching the dappled light filtering through the trees. I needed to be down there right in the midst of the magic. Remembering how just the day before Paige Hunter told me about talking her way out of a speeding ticket on her way to the Celebration, I decided to try something I’ve never done before…a bribe. I pulled Michael aside and asked him to speak to the four imposing men for me. How much would it take in order for me to wander down that slippery slope? Michael negotiated for a few minutes and then came over and whispered in my ear, “fifty pesos.” FIFTY PESOS! You’re kidding me! Oh, wait a minute. Let’s see…I think that’s about four bucks. Okay, if that’s what it’s going to take, I guess I’ll just have to ante up!
This is where the magic kicks in and yes, like the song from my high school days forty years ago…I still believe in magic. I’ll never in my life forget the half hour I spent with the butterflies. It was mesmerizing. I felt transformed by the fragile beauty that surrounded me; like a young girl in an enchanted forest who could be transported away at any moment by the inconceivability of what I was witnessing – crisp, clear, thin air; brilliant blue skies; marshmallow puffs of clouds; towering fir trees and dazzling monarch butterflies by the thousands flying in circles around me. And it was silent…sacred.
I’d bet fifty pesos that’s what heaven is going to be like – communing with butterflies and then riding a trusty steed to a pink shack of a restaurant to savor carne asada prepared by a sweet Mamita on a wood-burning stove served with grilled cactus and onions and fresh bright blue corn tortillas with homemade salsa. If heaven falls short…I’m asking for a return trip to Morelia.