On a walk yesterday at this city's nature center, the day before this one that marks the turning of the seasons, I stopped to pick up some of the first colorful leaves that had fallen to the sidewalk, then a monarch butterfly fluttered past me headed south, while a honeybee sluggishly toured through a blooming patch of goldenrod and asters, the wildflowers of fall in the Midwest.
The big black-and-orange monarchs buck the butterfly trend. Most other species of butterfly have settled down already for the winter, slumbering in the cocoon or going about disguised as caterpillars.
The monarch, though, migrates as many bird species do. They follow regular migration routes down from the North, along major river valleys, along coastlines. Some of them travel over 2,000 miles ending in southern Mexico.
No one is sure why these butterflies migrate, or how they navigate. All we know is that they do so by the millions and that they come back to their summer haunts every spring. Some are survivors of the previous year's journey; others -- probably most -- are a new generation hatched in the far south.