Maples Giving Forth Light

November 17, 2014

“The maples give forth light, like closer suns.  The oaks glow with garnet fire, and all the thickets blaze with scarlets and pale gold and cinnamon.   It is like the music of a trumpet.”
— Gladys Tabor, Stillmeadow Daybook

Glowing maple leaves, November

Glowing maple leaves, November

“The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can.”
—  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from “Christobel”

Turning so beautifully

“Envied by us all
The leaves of the maple turn
Beautiful, then fall.”
— Shiko

Under a Japanese maple

Japanese Maple Leaves Stitched Together by Andy Goldsworthy (1987), from Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature


Strolling along tall cedar trees, Washington Park Arboretum

I made a special visit to the Washington Park Arboretum yesterday to experience Paths II: The Music of Trees, a series of seven sound installations by composer Abby Aresty.  She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, and this outdoor music project is her dissertation.  She recorded natural sounds at these sites in different seasons, and then used them in compositions, which are broadcast in three-hour “concerts” on Wednesdays and Saturdays in October. You can read more about this remarkable project in this Seattle Times article.

I didn’t want the month to pass without checking out this unusual art project.  Armed with a map from the Visitor’s Center, I strolled the paths looking for the seven listening sites.  As always, I enjoyed wandering among the many tall trees of the arboretum.  And the unique soundscapes made this visit especially memorable.

“Twisted things continue to make creaking contortions.” (Gaston Bachelard). At Site 1, twisted plastic tubing becomes “mutant” branches.

The path near Site 1: The Music of Trees

Staircase under Japanese maple, Washington Park Arboretum

Walking beneath the rhododendrons at Site 4, where the sounds featured raindrops on leaves

Rhododendron bud

Site 6 used hanging sculptures like wind chimes, and the music incorporated the sounds of falling leaves.

Looking up into the maple tree at Site 7. I couldn’t hear the sound concert because a maintenance crew was blowing leaves down the way.

Washington Park Arboretum

Light-dappled curtain of leaves


Colorful Japanese maple against evergreen

Cluster of oak leaves

Bench, Washington Park Arboretum

Street light, Washington Park Arboretum