Flight of the Milkweed Down

Flight of the Milkweed Down

This post is contributed by Barnaby Porter from his archives. Read the previous post here.

On the tails of summer hang days of indecision, flying days, when the last of summer’s afternoons reel under the cool, blue breath of autumn, and one is not quite sure whose time it is to fly. Summer’s grasshoppers have grown sluggish and just seem to sit about, making it my job to move them out of the way. And all too often, I am finding spent dragonflies where they’ve dropped in four-winged death, stiff and dry, magnificent, sad flying machines who will fly no more. There are changes afoot.

Autumn, now, is making its way in under the veil of morning mists, friendly ones, but chilling too for what they portend. Frost will follow. And more. There’s a certain urgency in the air, and there will be flying as though there were no tomorrow. Leaves by the millions, yellow and crimson, will swirl and glide for days and weeks. Already I see flocks of birds glutting themselves, preparing for migration. They will soon hurtle along under autumn’s spell, their collective wingbeats awesome in their total energy, flying on and on for southern destinations.

They all will go. They must – heron, osprey, woodcock, goose, and the many songbirds. They each will have their day to take flight. It’s in the cards. There’s no other route to the future – only to fly with fate and hope for a good day.

And good days do come along; they too are in the cards. Maybe with a frost at dawn and a warm noon followed by a bright and gusty afternoon. A good flying day is the sort that can open a milkweed pod wide enough that the sun can dry it a bit and the wind can get at the seeds’ silken chutes.

Little by little do the seeds work free, and each becomes a puff of silken down. A perfect flying day – milkweed down lofts into the brisk air and is off, effortlessly, on its journey toward fate. High and away they fly, a few at first, then by the hundreds, and thousands, wonderful to watch, perhaps wonderful to be.

Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. On October 7, 2021, Barnaby completed his tenure on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees after six years of service.