Painted leaves

October is the month for painted leaves . . . ~Thoreau

While the garden is quietly collapsing back into the earth, the trees are a riot of color. Cold crisp nights dipping towards the freezing point have triggered the shift from soft green leaves to a paintbox of crisp autumn colors. Most of my time outside has been spent looking upwards, that’s where the drama is. (click on any photo to see a full size image)

 

October proved a riot a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween. ~Keith Donohue

A few tender plants linger – a coral Million Bells tucked under the spiral staircase, Gloriosa daisies in a planter on the deck, a mound of coral red ‘Sedona’ coleus in a protected corner of the house.

 

The herb circle in the front of the house remains lush, with tall grasses and creamy seedhead clouds of our native white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)octoberherbcircle

along with a mound of tall blue ageratums self-sown from last year. ageratum

A few days ago, a flock of robins gathered for their flight south and indicated to me that they wanted their favorite watering bowl at the foot of the oaks cleaned and refilled. I obliged and they drank long and deep before taking to the skies. oakmaple

The leaves of the kousa dogwoods have turned a deep russet red kousaleaveswhile the wild grapevine leaves remain green even as their stems turn scarlet. wildgrapevineleaf

As I step outside each morning, a rich sweet smell arises from the earth, the scent of fallen fruit, decomposing leaves and rain soaked earth, the smell of true autumn. hardyplumbagoleaves

At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth . . .  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

The Subtle Season

Subtle and dark, lovely and stark, in gentle tones of gray and brown and white, for a night and a day, then all turns gray . . .  from the song “Winter” by Lynn Emberg Purse

In the study of the physics of sound, I have always found it interesting that humans don’t perceive many different subtleties of volume but an almost infinitesimal perception of the subtleties in pitch (frequency) and tone color (timbre.)

And so it is in the garden.  It is that “in between” season, after the loud fireworks of autumn and before the stark black and white of winter.  The garden is quiet these days, with mostly the wind and the occasional bird call for a soundtrack as I wander through. But with the closest attention, there is subtle beauty that will linger until the snows come.

Shadow and Light

Chiaroscuro – Italian for the play of shadow and light, most often referring to tonal relationships in visual art (Wikipedia)

Walking through a garden or a forest is a much different experience than looking at it from afar. When seen from a vantage point, no matter how beautiful a view, only your eyes see the beauty before you and you are separated from it – it and you.  But walking in it and through it, that is a different experience altogether.  You and it become a “we” – fused together by a play of shadow and light, transient shifts of color and tone that enfold you as a part of nature’s spectral ballet.

Chiaroscuro is a term that painters used to describe the use of shadow and light to create the illusion of three dimensionality on a two dimensional plane.  Photographers embraced it  as a reminder that they were photographing light, not things. As I walked through the garden this week, each step became an experience of shadow and light. Every plant and flower took on a golden glow, filtered through the autumn leaves above. Standing below a fiery maple tree became a transcendent experience of standing in liquid gold; the deep umber and burgundy hues of light traveling through oak leaves captivated me for long moments.  The beauty of autumn is transitory, all the more treasured for that short period of time when we look upward at a canopy of color that is unmatched in any other season.

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Here is French singer Juliette Greco singing  Les Fuielles Morte (Autumn Leaves) in French in a live concert in Berlin (1967) in a simple arrangement of voice and guitar.  Sartre said of her that she had “. . . millions of poems in her voice.” (Wikipedia)

Where there is much light, the shadow is deep.  ~ Geothe

For a translation of the original French lyrics (by Jacques Prevert) to Les Feuilles mortes/Autumn Leaves (not the Johnny Mercer English lyrics) – see this translation by Coby Lubliner.