As he clung to the swaying goldenrod, he could feel the chill in the wind that whipped at him. He was very cold, and it was becoming more and more difficult to hold on to the moving stalk. Once, it would have been no problem, but now he was very old.
He looked at the meadow that had been his home. Once, it had been bright green, full of beautiful things: slender blades of grass, little vines with purple flowers that crawled their way along the meadow flor, daises with the sun captured in their centers, and most of all, white and red clover. Most of all, I loved the clover, he thought. Their blooms were large, but not too large, and their fragrance made me happy.
He shifted his weight on the stalk, trying to get a better hold. He shivered a very tiny shiver, for it was becoming colder now. He looked up at the sky and it was all dark and slate grey, but he could remember when it had been warm blue and this made the cold more bearable. He could also remember the days of flying happily in the warm sunshine, flying as high as he could just for the sheer joy of it, and these thoughts helped to warm his small body.
In those days there had been bees in the meadow, and crickets, and those wonderful things called fireflies, and many, many, other butterflies. They were all gone now, except him. There was nothing left but the brown grass and the cold and the wind and the dark sky.
In those good days, all gone now, he had first discovered lilacs and sadness. The lilacs he had found at the north end of the meadow, growing next to the window of a small house. The lilacs were in their full glory of bloom, and their fragrance kept drawing him back to them.
It was there that he had seen his first man. While flying round and round the lilac stems bursting with bloom, he had seen the man watching him through the window. His first impulse had been fear, but being young and brave, and he thought, immortal, he settled on one of the stems. He sat very still, very still. After a few minutes, enough to prove his bravery, he flew back to the meadow.
He repeated this pattern for a number of days and became less and less afraid of the man. One day, he found a small mound of brown sugar that the man had placed in the window sill. He felt happy, and in his tiny way, felt also that his presence had made the man happy too.
One day, the man was no longer there. But there were other men, and the next day the other men dug a large hole in the ground not too far from the house and put a box into it, then covered the hole with dirt. He could not understand. It was then that he first experienced sadness. Every day he flew back to the house and sat on the lilac near the window, but he never saw the man again. It was not necessary for the sugar to be there, just the man who seemed to delight in watching him fly. But the man was never there.
The cold wind brought him back to reality and he tried to move his tattered wings but could not. Once, they had been rainbows of color, perfectly matched, and strong enough to fly forever. Now they were useless. He opened his eyes. The wind had slowed a little, but it was becoming more and more difficult to hold onto the stalk. It was colder and he could see small white flakes dropping from the sky. They had formed a white carpet over his meadow and they felt soft as they brushed his tiny body.
He looked once more at his meadow, and as he did he fell from the goldenrod into the covering snow and lay still.