After a series of gray, cloudy days, the sunshine on Wednesday came at a good time. I had some free time and headed over to Witmer Woods, near the dam. I visited these woods regularly last spring, watching the green emerge. It was well hidden this time and I found myself focusing on patterns and shapes instead.
After the leaves fell, and the temperatures fell, and the snow fell. . . here we are in winter. Just a skiff of snow, but enough for abstract patterns on the sidewalk. And enough to provide a backdrop for the delicate patterns of this dried plant growing on the edge of the prairie plantings on campus.
This past week has been a hinge time, with the landscape shifting from the copper, gold and bronze of autumn to a dusting of white and dropping temperatures. Here's photos from a golden day before the fall, with the fireworks of milkweed seeds bursting from the pod, the patterns of branches and dried seedpods, the calligraphy of ivy, and a remaining touch of summer purple, side-by-side with a golden grass seedhead.
More photos from Saturday's trip to the Calendar Garden -- seed pods, dried leaves, bare trees, and one surprise.
Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
from Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
I took my Windwatchers group down to the calendar garden this past Saturday, to do some beholding.
The art of beholding is like this. "Behold" means to hold something in your gaze. To behold is not to stare or glance; it is not a quick scan or an expectant look. Beholding has a slow and spacious quality to it. . . . You release your expectations of what you think you will see and instead receive what is actually there. . . . Hold your camera in your hand and open yourself to grace and revelation hidden in each moment, just beneath the surface of what seems to be another ordinary moment.
from Eyes of the Heart, by Christine Valters Paintner
One can move into life with openness. It is as if one says to the world, and to life, and to one's self, and to God, "Surprise me!" This simple shift of attitude can make the difference between boredom and beauty. from Simply Sane, by Gerald May
And there were surprises and beauty -- the many shapes and patterns of flowers and seeds, fall-blooming iris and Lenten rose, the delight and energy of four young boys finding the perfect race track in the circular shape of the garden.
A few more photos from last weekend at Friedenswald, this time from the woods. So what is that wooly bear predicting about the length of the coming winter? (Presumably very little, since apparently the amount of brown is an indication of the caterpillar's age, so it says more about when the past winter ended then about the one coming up.)
And then there were the patterns of seeds and the glory of leaves in the sunlight, and the curlycues of leaf and vine, and the reflections of light cast by rippling water on a streambed near the fen.
Here's a mystery. Most of the tracks in our yard are easy to figure out -- the patterns of bird feet under the feeder, the rabbit crossing from here to there, the squirrel bounding from the maple to the feeder and back again, the cat that prowls the edges. But what is the story behind the photo above? Apparently one night a rabbit hopped out to the middle of the yard, danced crazily for a few moments and then lopped away to the protective cover of the privet.
And then there's sunshine and shadow on snow, and the light-catching crystals of hoarfrost on dried plants.
Tuesday was a typical northern Indiana, transition-into-winter day, one that could make you gloomy just looking out the window. Warm though, with a forecast for below-freezing temperatures the rest of the week, so I found time to go out with my camera.
It took about half the walk, heading out from the house, to shed the writing project I had been working on. The scenery didn't help -- bare tree branches, gray skies, prairie plantings full of blackened, weedy stems. I didn't even bother pulling my camera out of my pocket.
When I got to the southwest corner of campus, a couple little rusty-capped sparrows flew up from the grasses to take refuge in nearby bushes. They caught my wandering attention. I listened to them sing and started looking more closely at the weeds and grasses nearby. I found silver and gold, and evidence that the birds had been enjoying the banquet spread out before them.
Two nights of hard frost earlier this week, with little wind, and the following day the leaves dropped, straight down, creating round carpets under each tree, at least until the wind picked up.
A walk along the millrace was grays and browns, instead of last week's sun-filled golds, but there were still intriguing reflections to be seen. And with most of the leaves gone, there were other sights -- stem scars, grape vine knots, and black walnuts in odd places.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"