I have to confess that fall always makes me a little sad, even though I love the crisp air and the satisfying crunch of walking through fallen leaves. So much is ending, and at this stage of my life, there seem to be more endings than beginnings. Over the last few weeks, news of deaths and advancing illness have made this fall, still in its beginning phase, seem even more intense than usual.
My usual habit of turning to the outside world for solace has brought yet more meditation on endings. This was a good year for butterflies, but the brevity of their lives has contributed to my autumn melancholy. They add so much beauty to the world, but few of them live more than a few weeks.
One exception is the year's last generation of monarchs, which fly south to Mexico to overwinter, then start north in February or March, lay their eggs in the southern U.S., and die, leaving that next generation to complete the migration to our West Virginia hills and fields. Knowing that the caterpillars busily defoliating our backyard milkweeds a few weeks ago were the last generation of 2010 led me to commemorate them.