“There is a rumor of total welcome among the frosts of the winter morning….
“The field I am looking at is perhaps twenty acres altogether, long and broad. The sun has not yet risen but is sending its first showers over the mountains, a kind of rehearsal, a slant light with even a golden cast…. The light touches every blade of frozen grass, which then burns as a particular as well as part of the general view. The still-upright weeds have become wands, encased in a temporary shirt of ice and light… Neither does this first light miss the opportunity of the small pond, or the groups of pine trees. And now: enough of silver, behold the pink, even a vague, unsurpassable flush of pale green….
“It is the performance of this hour only, the dawning of the day, fresh and ever new.”
Ah, but the winters! The earth’s mysterious turning-within. Where around the dead in the pure receding of sap, boldness is gathered, the boldness of future springtimes. Where imagination occurs beneath what is rigid; where all the green worn thin by the vast summers again turns into a new insight and the mirror of intuition; where the flowers’ color wholly forgets that lingering of our eyes.
“The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity. A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature. For although the works of nature are innumerable and all different, the result or the expression of them all is similar and single. Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique….
“A leaf, a sunbeam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the mind. What is common to them all — that perfectness and harmony, is beauty. The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms — the totality of nature….
“Nothing is quite beautiful alone; nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce…. Thus in art does Nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.”
Autumn color came to my neighborhood pretty late this year, butting up against the Christmas holidays and my Christmas photo project (see Days to Christmas 2022). I had taken quite a few leaf and tree photos in late November and early December, and associated the more brightly colored ones with Christmas on three posts…
… then yesterday went through what was left from those fall color shoots. For this post and the next one, I put together some small galleries of those photos that remained in my catalog — mostly reds and oranges or yellows, all certainly now blown away with the passing through of last week’s winter storm.
“We heard the sigh of the first autumnal wind, and even the water had acquired a grayer hue. The sumach, grape, and maple were already changed, and the milkweed had turned to a deep rich yellow. In all woods the leaves were fast ripening for their fall; for their full veins and lively gloss mark the ripe leaf, and not the sered one of the poets; and we knew that the maples, stripped of their leaves among the earliest, would soon stand like a wreath of smoke along the edge of the meadow. Already the cattle were heard to low wildly in the pastures and along the highways, restlessly running to and fro, as if in apprehension of the withering of the grass and of the approach of winter. Our thoughts too began to rustle.”
Let the autumn days produce Yellow corn and purple juice, And Nature’s feast be spread In the fruitage ripe and red; ‘Tis grateful to behold Gushing grapes and fields of gold, When cheeks are brown’d and red lips deeper dyed: But give, oh! give to me The winter night of glee, The mirth and plenty seen at Christmas tide.
This is the second of two posts with photographs showing how nature gets ready for Christmas. The first post is Autumn Dreams of Christmas (1 of 2). Here we have some shades of red — deeply red maples and oaks filling the frame — followed by variations on yellow, orange, and gold. Someone, somewhere, once upon a time surely looked at sights like this and thought: hey, I should put these brilliant colors on a tree inside my house!
“Such are the woody shores of Cape Cod as we look back upon them in that distant November day, and the harbor lies like a great crystal gem on the bosom of a virgin wilderness. The fir trees, the pine trees, and the bay, rejoice together in freedom, for as yet the axe has spared them; in the noble bay no shipping has found shelter; no voice or sound of civilized man has broken the sweet calm of the forest.
“The oak leaves, now turned to crimson and maroon by the autumn frosts, reflect themselves in flushes of color on the still waters. The golden leaves of the sassafras yet cling to the branches… and every brushing wind bears showers of them down to the water. Here and there the dark spires of the cedar and the green leaves and red berries of the holly contrast with these lighter tints. The forest foliage grows down to the water’s edge, so that the dash of the rising and falling tide washes into the shaggy cedar boughs which here and there lean over and dip in the waves.”
One of the neat things about the change from summer to fall here in Georgia is that it often continues late into November — so autumn color hangs around until mid-December and a lot is still visible as people sling up their trees and festoon their houses with Christmas lights. It makes for an extended seasonal color show — especially delightful to people like me who like to explore color in nature then transition quickly to photographing the lights and colors of things around the house for a set of Christmas decoration posts. For the past three years, I’ve assembled a series that I call “Days to Christmas” — which starts ten days out from the big day and continues until December 25th. If you would like to see those from the previous year you can use these links…
… or just wait until December 15 when I start over again.
There’s always a bit of repetition (let’s just call it a “tradition”) among the photographs for these series — I mean, one only has so many trinkets and baubles, doesn’t one? — so each year I try out new whatnot arrangements or background setups or color and light experiments to keep it interesting (at least for me!), and learn a little more about photography techniques in the process.
Last year, for example, I bought a rolling cart I could use to stage objects in front of different backgrounds (like the Christmas tree) instead of using my dining room chairs, and the cart doubles as a camera and lens storage cabinet off-season. I roll the cart around to see how different camera settings affect depth of field and bokeh. I also added a lightstand to my home photography “studio” (also known as: my foyer) so that I could hang wrapping paper in midair and use it as a backdrop instead of tacking the paper to my walls. This year, I ordered a lighting kit for the alleged studio — and though I haven’t received it yet, I’m hoping it will eliminate the need to position flashlights and random lamps to produce lighting variations, and, perhaps, pose more formal portraits of The Dog. Assuming I can get him to sit still, that is….
The photographs in this post (and the next one) were taken in late November and early December, when the Japanese Maple varieties were especially colorful. The first seven are Japanese Maple trees; and the group of five are photos of a gigantic Japanese maple shrub that hangs over one of the old stone walls in Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The last three show droppings from a regular — as in not-Japanese — maple that I’ve seen before produces a lot of different leaf colors, mixed with some leaves that floated in from oak trees nearby.
“Plants that bloom in cloudy masses are a boon to the perennial border because with no effort on your part they produce ‘drifts of color.’ The phrase is Gertrude Jekyll’s. Jekyll, like Monet, was a painter with poor eyesight, and their gardens — his at Giverny in the Seine valley, hers in Surrey — had resemblances that may have sprung from this condition. Both loved plants that foamed and frothed over walls and pergolas, spread in tides beneath trees; both saw flowers in islands of colored light — an image the normal eye captures only by squinting….
“The charm of asters is their fluffy heads and ravishing colors — dusty pinks and powder-blues, strawberry reds and amethyst purples — and the way they arrange themselves in a bowl. I can’t resist them and invariably let optimism get the better of judgment, which come to think of it may be the first principle of gardening.”
“There is a small-growing perennial Aster, A. corymbosus, from a foot to eighteen inches high, that seems to enjoy close association with other plants and is easy to grow anywhere. I find it… one of the most useful of [the] filling plants for edge spaces that just want some pretty trimming but are not wide enough for anything larger….
”The little thin starry flower is white and is borne in branching heads; the leaves are lance-shaped and sharply pointed; but when the plant is examined in the hand its most distinct character is the small fine wire-like stem, smooth and nearly black, that branches about in an angular way of its own.”
This is the third of three posts featuring aster varieties from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens, where I took some my earlier aster photos, resized them, and removed the backgrounds. The “drifts of color” seem even more “ravishing” on black.