From A Child's Calendar by John Updike

From A Child’s Calendar by John Updike

by John Updike

The  month is amber,
Gold, and brown.
Blue ghosts of smoke
Float through the town.

Great V’s of geese
Honk overhead,
And maples turn
A fiery red.

Frost bites the lawn,
The stars are slits
In a black cat’s eye
Before she spits.

At last, small witches,
Goblins, hags,
And pirates armed
With paper bags.

Their costumes hinged
On safety pins,
Go haunt a night
Of pumpkin grins.

Multi-colored maple leaf

Multi-colored maple leaf

Watercolor sketch of maple leaf

Watercolor sketch of maple leaf

Watercolor sketch of maple leaf

Watercolor sketch of maple leaf


Last maple leaf withering on a branch

“There’s a name for these old leaves that stay on the trees until a strong wind or new spring leaves push them off — marcescent.”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot this year while I work on my tree-watching project.  Today, for example, I’ve learned a new vocabulary word, marcescent.  It gives me a new appreciation for those solitary last leaves that hang on, withering on their branches.  There’s a lesson about persistence there, and luck (perhaps), and hanging as long as you are able through the final winters of your life.

I’ll be using my tree-watching project as a platform for making watercolor sketches as well as writing and photographing, for there are good lessons in all of these creative pursuits, too:

“Drawing, photography, and journaling are other useful adjuncts to the viewing.  Any time you draw something, no matter how successful you are from an artistic point of view, you learn more about it, so it’s good advice to draw more if you want to see and remember more.  If we all approached drawing as a means of fixing a memory as opposed to creating a work of art, we’d do more of it and see more as a result.”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Watercolor sketch of marcescent maple leaf

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.

First Snow

November 23, 2010

Snow-frosted hydrangea

Spider web dusted with snow

Seattle got its first snow of the season yesterday.  I’ve heard predictions that this will be a snowy winter for us.  The forecasters might be right — this is early for snow to hit the city.  Some years we don’t get snow in Seattle all winter long.

I enjoyed my walk to work yesterday morning.  The snow was just beginning to stick, and I thought we’d be lucky to have an inch or two before it melted.  Some kids were already out sledding. 

The day grew increasingly blustery and cold.  By evening, two to six inches of accumulation were predicted, and temperatures dropped to the teens.  With the wind, it looked like a real blizzard outside.  The branch libraries closed two hours early at 6:00 p.m. to give staff extra time to get home on icy streets. 

Now it looks like the cold and ice will last until late Wednesday.  I’m glad we have no plans to travel this Thanksgiving.  I can relax and enjoy this first taste of winter.

Kids sledding at Green Lake on the first inches of snow

The last two sleds for sale at the hardware store in Greenwood

Maple leaf disappearing under the snow

Early Autumn Walk

September 28, 2009

Here are some of the things that caught my eye on recent walks through my neighborhood on these early days of autumn:

Fallen leaf and maple keys

Fallen leaf and maple keys

Blooming flower

Blooming flower

Late blooming flower

Late blooming flower

Flower seed heads

Flower seed heads