Nature Rambles | Autumn goldenrod ablaze



It seems that autumn comes well before I’m ready to say goodbye to summer. Perhaps it’s because, as we get older, we long for the halcyon days of youth and green growth. The onset of autumn is a little too much like looking into a mirror when you reach a certain age. The colors have changed, things are a little more tattered around the edges and the dry creek of limbs echo in the lengthening nights. The growth of summer has gotten long in the tooth, and winter’s slumber is not far off. Such is all things on this earth.

Even in this season of winding down, there are still exuberant bursts of vivid brilliance. It is impossible to look at the changing fall colors of the forests without being in awe of the spectacle. A last gasp of glory before leaves flutter to the ground and the trees sleep for a few months. A field of Goldenrod ablaze with various hues of yellow; punctuated with purples, white and blues of several species of asters. In this case, the color isn’t a last gasp. This is a full-on burst of life. Fall blooming wildflowers like asters and goldenrods seem to lie in wait in the prairie all summer. They let the sunflowers, mints and other wildflowers have their day in the sun in July and August. Rather than compete for insects, they meter their life out so that they can be in bloom when all others have sprinted their race early. The bees and butterflies don’t seem to mind at all. If anything, they revel and are thankful for the fresh nectar and pollen that Asters and Goldenrods provide this time of year.


Monarchs enjoy Goldenrod along the Prairie Path at Peoria Park District’s Tawny Oaks Field Station. (PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER)

This is good news for migrating monarchs travelling from as far away as Canada on their way south towards wintering grounds in Mexico. Today I walked along a pathway that was along an edge –– woods to the left and a field of Goldenrod to the right. Large numbers of migrating monarchs must have been slumbering the night away in the leaves of the trees. As the cool morning gave way to the warming sunshine, they fluttered down like falling leaves, one by one, to land on the Goldenrods. Probing each tiny flower for nectar, they were fueling up for their daily journey south. Once fueled, they flew off into a brilliant blue sky to continue their journey.

A good friend said to me as he was transfixed on watching the same blue sky, “I love this time of year. I can stand outside and watch the world for hours. On days like this, you get the feeling like you have the opportunity of seeing something that you have never seen before in your life.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that perspective. It is the wisdom wrought from being on this earth for enough seasons to understand that Nature is not linear “from a beginning to an end.” Rather, Nature is a progression from one opportunity to another. The changing of the seasons is a crossroad… an intersection where several things clamor to get on the road before the time to move is lost. If we can keep this perspective, we can appreciate the changing of the seasons a bit more. Who knows, if we become really enlightened, maybe we can even look into that mirror and smile.

Mike Miller

1 comment for “Nature Rambles | Autumn goldenrod ablaze

  1. September 28, 2018 at 6:36 am

    I too hate to see summer leave me behind, but this idea of new opportunities is one I can accept. Opportunities can bring challenges, but they can also bring knowledge and discovery. Great post Mike. Thank you for sharing. – Momma T

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