monarchOne of the few redeeming parts of my job is that I work in on the 29th floor of the New York Life Insurance Building on Madison Avenue. I am one of the luckier drones who has a huge window instead of a fourth cube wall – it looks north towards the Empire State Building and has views of the Hudson and East rivers. Even though I was told by higher-ups that it was “unfriendly” to be facing away from my cubicle entrance and toward the outside world, I decided to do it anyway. I consider it working toward my long-term goal at this company (being quietly fired).

I get to see a surprising number of things from 300+ feet up. Throughout the summer I watched the Park Avenue bathing beauties atop their posh apartment building roofs – sometimes relaxing, tanning, swimming and eating snacks for marathon sessions that lasted entire workdays. I also like to watch the construction of a building a few blocks away – the workers finish about a floor a week and then start on the next one – reaching higher and higher up into the skyline. It makes me feel good to know that some people see tangible results from their work even as I sit here typing away without seeing any progress, day after day and then at night, not getting higher or farther or better as far as I can tell.  

Also, things float by. Plastic bags do well as do runaway balloons. Blimps lumber around for hours and birds zoom.

But this week – suddenly – there have been butterflies. Monarch butterflies by the dozens, some even brushing the glass, so brightly beautiful and misplaced that it makes me want to cry.

I looked it up and learned that sure enough they migrate from the middle of August to the middle of September – they’re headed south for the winter. Mexico, Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz, Bermuda. Thousands of miles on delicate wings.

It’s one of those things that scientists admit to not knowing a thing about. Although most generations of Monarchs live just seven weeks, the last generation of the summer – the migrating generation – live for seven months so that they may fly south, winter, reproduce, and die. Even though there are three or four generations in between migrations, they always return to the same summering and wintering areas – some spots are so specific that it comes down to a certain tree.

Another one just flew by now – bobbing and fluttering against the wind. And I’m not sure if it’s sad or not that it’s the thing that is giving value to my day. I guess it’s good to know that sometimes it takes a lot of hard work – maybe generations of work – before you find results.

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