Everything Falls

October 30, 2014

“It is the fall.  And everything falls — not just the leaves.  The temperature falls as the earth again tilts away from the sun.  Darkness falls more quickly as the days shorten.  Plants droop and dry up and break apart.  Trees fall into dormancy and stop growing.  Their leaves and seeds fall into the cool air, and then to the ground, where they will rot and root and become something new.  This is the season of decay — a word that means “to fall away” — to return to your constituent parts, to what you are made of.”
— Tom Montgomery Fate, Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild

 

Watercolor sketch of fallen leaves

Watercolor sketch of fallen leaves

Circle of fall leaves, watercolor sketch

Circle of fall leaves, watercolor sketch

I was captivated by how these leaves were changing color from tip to stem

I was captivated by how these leaves were changing color from tip to stem

Watercolor sketch, circle of fall leaves

Watercolor sketch, circle of fall leaves

 

 

Without Regret

November 16, 2013

Watercolor sketch of fallen maple leaves

Watercolor sketch of fallen maple leaves

“When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.

When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.”
     — Wendell Berry, from “Prayers and Sayings of the Made Farmer”

 

Fallen maple leaves with raindrops

Fallen leaves at Lake Chelan State Park

“Adding a leaf’s breadth to the depth of the soil.”

“How pleasant to walk over beds of these fresh, crisp, rustling fallen leaves — young hyson, green tea, clean, crisp, and wholesome!  How beautiful they go to their graves!  how gently lay themselves down and turn to mould!  — painted of a thousand hues and fit to make the beds of us living.  So they troop to their graves, light and frisky.  They put on no weeds.  Merrily they go scampering over the earth, selecting their graves, whispering all through the woods about it.  They that waved so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again and are laid low, resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree and afford nourishment to new generations of their kind, as well as to flutter on high!  How they are mixed up, all species, — oak and maple and chestnut and birch!  they are about to add a leaf’s breadth to the depth of the soil.  We are all the richer for their decay.  Nature is not cluttered with them.  She is a perfect husbandman; she stores them all.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journals, October 20, 1853

Fallen maple leaf on pavement, already starting to decay

Autumn is that elegiac time of year, and fallen leaves are its emblem.  I recently read (in a blog I follow called “The Improvised Life“) about an intriguing art installation by Jane Hammond consisting of handmade leaves, each inscribed with the name of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.  This memorial sculpture is called Fallenand it seemed fitting to share it with you today, Veteran’s Day, when we honor all service men and women, living and dead.  You can follow the links to read more about this piece of art and see it installed in its last exhibition.

“It’s sometimes harder to see the familiar than the unusual, because in order to really see the familiar, you have to break the habit of overlooking it.”
— Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

As I mentioned in my December 21st post, I will be taking up tree-watching in 2012.  I’ve decided to “adopt” three trees — the horse chestnut trees near my bus stop, a maple tree in the parking strip, and a willow (at least I think it’s a willow) in a nearby alley — for periodic observation during the coming year.  I’m curious to find out what I have been overlooking, and hope, by close observation, to become better acquainted with these common trees.

Here are some of my views of these trees in late December:

Fallen, brown leaves under a horse chestnut tree

Trunk, bark, and buds of horse chestnut tree

Wrinkled bark on the "underarm" of this branch

Lateral buds on horse chestnut branch

Terminal buds, resting buds and leaf scars of horse chestnut tree

New buds with old leaf stems still attached

Decaying maple leaves in the parking strip

Trunk and bark of maple tree

Terminal buds, resting buds of maple

Last of the old maple keys, still hanging on

Trunk and bark of willow

Winter buds of willow

Winter buds, resting buds of willow

The Signature Mark of Autumn

November 19, 2011

“The signature mark of autumn has arrived at last with the rains:  orange of pumpkin, orange persimmon, orange lichen on rocks and fallen logs; a copper moon hung low over the orchard; moist, ruddy limbs of the madrone, russet oak leaf, storm-peeled redwood, acorns emptied by squirrels and jays; and mushrooms, orange boletes, Witch’s Butter sprouting on rotted oak, the Deadly Galerina, and of course, chanterelles, which we’ll eat tonight with pasta, goat cheese, and wine.”
— Gary Young, “The Signature Mark of Autumn”

Fallen leaves in yellows, golds, and browns

Fall colors at Molbaks Nursery

The signature colors of fall at Molbaks Nursery

Chanterelles, a gift from my sister and brother-in-law

Chanterelles for supper

Moldering Moments of Fall

October 17, 2011

Fallen leaves moldering in the gutter

Fallen maple leaf floating in Green Lake

Fall Song
by Mary Oliver

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries – roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

Stars, the Poetry of Heaven

November 22, 2010

Fallen leaves strewn like stars across a black sky

Leaves fallen into constellations, riding the Milky Way

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
     — Vincent van Gogh

“Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!”
     — Lord Byron