The echinacea are far gone now; none lifts a head toward the sun, and the drooping petals are fading rapidly from their elegant purple to a dull bleached white.
But the sun seems to burst from their decay in small fireballs as the local flock of goldfinches feeds and plays among the washed out blossoms. As I watch, one lands on the cone-shaped head of the tallest plant, swaying back and forth as he surveys the patch. I see at least five now, playing tag or leapfrog as they swoop toward and over each other in a few minutes’ play before settling to the serious business of harvesting. When K walks outside, at least eight take flight like brilliants in the late evening sun, breathtaking against the darkening blue of the sky.
Their bright gold, trimmed in glossy black, emphasizes the pallor of the echinacea and the dying of summer. Yet, just as I begin to feel the sorrow of the coming autumn, their sudden and startling color delights the eye and reminds me that even this decay holds its purpose – the birds feed and store up for winter flight; the flowers drop and fertilize the earth for spring. Indeed there is a season for everything, and the inevitable autumn need not be feared.
Photo Credit: Goldfinch on echinacea at Penn State Arboretum's pollinator garden. Photo by Anita Colyer Graham