Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumn's golden days #phenology

In our neck of the woods, we've reached the time of year when even the "evergreens" are changing colors and dropping needles. If you look carefully, the tamaracks in the center of the picture below can be seen to show the beginning of their color shift. (A glimpse of the "bog" they live in can be seen in the lower right corner.) Soon the tamaracks will turn all yellow or chartreuse or something like that, depending on how your eyes see color. Then they'll drop their leaves and show us bare branches all Winter. There are several wetlands, that include tamarack bogs or swamps, in our neighborhood. They make for an interesting neighborhood and provide homes for even more interesting neighbors.

Autumn's golden sunlight on tamaracks and hardwoods
Autumn's golden sunlight on tamaracks and hardwoods
Photo by J. Harrington

Many of the pine trees scattered about the neighborhood are also displaying golden hues as they exchange old needle clusters for new. They don't attain the barren branches that the tamarack do, but their dropped clusters (five for white pine, two for red) make a noteworthy contribution to forest duff and acidic soils. How old were you when you learned that the Christmas tree (balsam or Frasier, right?) that dropped its needles on the carpet had cousins that do the same thing outside?

White pine shedding needles
White pine shedding needles
Photo by J. Harrington

Another golden feature of this time of year (not counting aspen and birch leaves which are yellow in my book) is the light, especially late afternoon light that makes wild grasses and fallen leaves glow and shimmer in the slightest breeze and just glow when it's calm. There's no one reason that Autumn is my favorite season, even allowing the Spring relieves us of Minnesota's Winters, but the quality of light near day's end has to be included on my list.


Fall Song


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.

- Mary Oliver


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