as nights grow colder,
a butterfly with tattered wings
basks in warm sunshine
A tattered, yellowed page falls out of a folder on my desk, unfolding on the floor to a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."
The warm but shorter days are silently carrying away the gifts of summer. Leaves cascade in torrents from the trees. Tall prairie grasses turn copper, casting their seeds to the wind. Squirrels busily attempt to bury hickory nuts and acorns in the rock-hard ground. Fuzzy black and brown caterpillars scurry as fast as their many legs can carry them in search of a protected place to curl up for the winter. Honey bees forage on wild white and purple asters for the last drops of nectar. Hummingbirds and many others have migrated south, while the ones overwintering, like the Goldfinch, have molted from sunflower yellow to dull olive. Monarch butterflies and many others have also migrated south, while other butterflies and moths are already holed up in hollows or cracks in the bark of trees.
I follow a butterfly with tattered swallowtail wings around the yard, a straggler, late to either migrate or hibernate. It flutters from brown leaf to brown leaf until it lands on one yellow leaf, where it spreads its wings, soaking up the warmth from the afternoon sun. I squat down among the crisp, aromatic leaves, spread my bare arms and turn my face to the sun.