Our yard is blessed each year to be frequented by beautiful western tiger swallowtail butterflies. Magnificent specimens who flit, dart, and dodge around and through the spring and summer air in search of nectar. The big bougainvillea beneath one of our backyard palms is a regular stop on their journeys, but they rarely light upon its blossoms for long.

This morning, while feeding the tortoise, I looked up precisely as one flew directly over my head. But it was decidedly less energized than usual. Instead of quickly flapping its wings, they were spread wide and held still allowing it to drift slowly past me on whatever current of air was available up there. As it floated to the bougainvillea and out of sight, I was able to see some of the vibrancy and contrast gone from its distinctive yellow and black wings.

I knew what it meant. That its cycle of life was drawing to a close. Maybe not today. Maybe not next week. But sometime soon.

And I stopped what I was doing at the tortoise hutch, sat back on the pony wall behind me and said goodbye.