Last moments

An orange-brown butterfly flits about in the darkening twilight. There are no flowers hereabouts, but perhaps the butterfly has followed me or is looking for moisture from the rapidly-falling dew before retiring (I don’t know where) for the night. I follow its zagging path a moment before walking away. My eye catches a single orange-brown leaf on the ground. For a rueful moment I think it is the butterfly, fallen. I pick up the leaf and stare at it. Perhaps, once, it was a butterfly.

Autumn foretells the end of leaves, and insects; the two, perhaps, are not so far apart in space or time. Any more than we are from them. The Chinese and Japanese poets considered the cry of the cicadas a telling sign of autumn’s progress, for the unknowing creatures did not realize the looming fate before them as they sang in cheerful ignorance. Do we not do likewise, wondering how fruitful (or failing) was our most recent occupation or business?

To think in terms of what occupies us and how worthwhile or short-fallen were our lastest efforts is vain and futile. Perhaps our last moments will be preoccupied with an unpaid bill, an unsent message, a remorseful memory, an unresolved doubt, a piece of music. It will probably not be the emptiness of the cicada’s mind, or that of the butterfly or the leaf, not the “no mind” that we spent our busy lives trying to attain.