The view from our front steps is a prosaic one most of the time -- houses, trees, telephone poles, college buildings, a busy street or traffic backed up waiting for a train.
The sky is still there though, and in recent days, the transition times have been full of color. This morning it was lavender and pink, turning the whole sky rosy.
As I walked over to campus to meet my sister for our morning walk, the refrain from Fiddler on the Roof kept running through my head, quite in keeping with the seasonal metaphor I've been exploring the last while.
swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
laden with happiness and tears.
And with light and shadow, dark and light. And color.
The combination of this squash and the Mexican bobblehead critter has been a source of delight this past week or two. I picked up the squash at the Farmers' market, intending to cook it up, and that's still the plan, but first it served as Thanksgiving day decoration, and then the little armadillo, or whatever it is, seemed to belong on top of it, gently dipping its head and bobbing its little orange ears whenever someone blows on it.
And the other photos, taken in the past couple of months, seem to go with this burnt orange theme.
November is busy with a palette of browns and grays and greens, and occasional notes of glorious crimson. I'm feeling chilly today, and so I am wrapping up in a ruddy afghan and taking comfort in some of November's crimson and scarlet moments.
It was a rainy weekend for the annual Assembly retreat at Camp Friedenswald, but a group of us were able to explore the woods with Carol Good-Elliott Saturday morning, before the showers started.
We ambled along, stopping to examine the diversity of shapes on sassafras trees (oval, Michigan shaped, and two thumbed), the rich purple of squashed pokeweed berries, the golden eyes of a tiny spring peeper. Carol had us using all our senses, tasting anise-y sweet cicely, listening for woodpeckers and warblers, rubbing our fingers over the raised ridges of papery beech leaves,.and sniffing spicebush and sassafras leaves (which, according to the grade school children who visit Merrylea where Carol works, smell like Lucky Charms. We went with "lemony, " or to at least one person, "Lemon Pledge"). And even with a gray damp day, and lots of brown leaves around, there were plenty of colorful leaves to admire.
I found a magnificent stand of pokeweed in a corner near the old barn at Maple Tree Meadows. Pokeweed, as its name makes no attempt to hide, is a weed. The plant itself can grow up to nine feet tall, and produces lots of berries.
This one had pendants at all stages from flower to berry, making for an intriguing continuum from pastels to rich, dark colors. They look luscious, but pokeweed berries are poisonous, though I've read that the early spring shoots are edible.
First berries from the garden! Except for those that were ripening, and then vanished thanks to a squirrel or chipmunk. And if you peer closely at these, you'll see a robin or some such avian visitor helped themselves to a peck of strawberry.
After a warm March and early blooms on the berries, we spent numerous April nights covering them against frost. Despite some losses, we're seeing plenty of developing fruit now -- strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Greens and reds, and flora and fauna (of sorts) from a stroll around the Greencroft pond today. There seems to be a theme of bark-y, green squiggles and red rotundity as well.
It was a lovely, sunny day, but due to my schedule there was only a brief time in the late afternoon when I could get out to look for sparks of light.
I decided to give myself the challenge of seeing what I could find in the blocks just north of here, where 10th Street runs past a couple factories and the alley runs past parking lots and dilapidated back yards. Not the most scenic area, as you can see above.
Still, there were things that caught my eye, like the landing of the small bird on the leftmost wire - something about the bird blithely making itself at home amidst the complexities of the wires tickles my fancy.
All God's children got a place in the choir,
some sing low, and some sing higher,
some sing out loud on the telephone wire. . .
(hear a clip of Bill Staines performing the full song)
And there were the lines and the light on this stump.
An acquaintance came biking past as I took this photo and asked if there was something special I was photographing. "No, I just liked the red ribbons," I told her, and then as she biked away, felt like I should be explaining that it was something about the festive air of the bows decorating a gray fence on the edge of a bland parking lot, not that I'm especially attracted to red plastic bows. But ah, well. Sparks of light came in many forms.
I do seem to be drawn to shades of red, whether in the near ground-level berries in the photo above or in this towering, glowing bittersweet vine, or the closeup from the same vine below.
Today some of the details on "barren branches" caught my eye -- a fascinating mix of buds and berries at various stages. I especially liked the water berries above. When the temperature drops below freezing tonight, will there be little ice berries on this tree?
I had a retreat day at the cottage at Pathways Retreat Center today, a good day of rest and reflection. The morning was gray and drippy, and could have been dismal, except that everywhere I looked, I saw beads of light. There was even color.
The afternoon was drier and I was able to walk the small labyrinth. I came back to my snug cabin and Seeking with All My Heart by Paula D'Arcy, and found myself reading about her experience walking a labyrinth made with luminaries (candles in paper bags). She describes how she half-closed her eyes, so she was no longer aware of the others walking with her through the narrow rows of candles.
"There was only light. And suddenly I was nowhere, and I was everywhere. At the same moment. I simply was. And there was nothing more or less than now."
She held that awareness as she refocused her eyes and started the journey back out, passing the people who followed her, this time meeting their eyes, holding their gaze. She realized that the labyrinth wasn't just a work of art, but a representation of something deeply true.
"The path we each walk, the movement of the soul toward awakening, is ablaze with light. We never take a step apart from light. By light we are held and defined.
But on the path itself, day to day, we seldom, if ever glimpse light. We're more likely to see difficulty, adversity and sorrow. We often feel alone, not held. There is no sense of a life-sustaining embrace. There is the sense that life is an incomprehensible puzzle, which often goes in a direction we would never have consciously chosen. Far from seeing light, we perceive darkness."
She goes on to tell of meeting, years later, the nurse who had cared for her in intensive care in the days after a car accident that took the lives of her husband and daughter. She didn't recognize her, but the nurse knew who she was and told of how she had tended her and prayed for her, and hoped against hope that she'd make it -- praying that the flicker of light she saw in her would not go out.
Driving home after the encounter, Paula was overwhelmed by "a realization that those days, for me, had appeared to be totally and utterly dark. And if my life at the time had been depicted as a journey within a labyrinth, I would have insisted that that particular section of the path was unlit. But that night, in a rare moment, I not only got to see that I was mistaken, I got to see the very embodiment of the path's light."
Darkness and light. Walking in the light, whether we are able to perceive it or not.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"