Thursday, August 13, 2009

UNDERSTANDING THE LIGHT

Just after sunrise, when I stepped outside with the dog, the first thing that stuck me was the unusual silence. Of course, being that I live beside a woods-lined river located in that borderland beyond well-manicured suburbia and what a farmer would consider genuine shaggy rurality, the silence was more conditional than complete; not really a total lack of sound, but rather an absence of the usual background noise.
The only bird sound I heard during my twenty-minute sortie along the riverbank and to various corners of the yard around the cottage, was a single brief peal of maniacal laughter from a pileated woodpecker on the distant lower end of the island across from the house. Otherwise, not a blue jay or cardinal, robin or titmouse—not even one of my beloved Carolina wrens—had yet found either voice or reason to disturb the hush.
Even the river, following its ancient path from source to sea, seemed muted. Though we’ve had several good rains during the past couple of weeks, the water finding its way down and through the long riffle—over, around, under the stones and gravel and those few scattered boulders whose smooth, rounded edges speak of time measured in millennia—the sound of its passage was scarcely more than a stealthy liquid whisper—shhhhhhhh….
The air was damp and a cool you could rightly call chilled. Not cold, but what my grandfather called “nippy.” A temperature that’s been hanging around cold’s neighborhood long enough to pick up certain bad habits. I was glad I’d slipped on a heavy shirt before coming out.
A month ago the sun would have been well up by now. A month ago the birds—in spite of the fact their business of establishing territory and finding a mate, nesting, hatching and subsequently feeding hungry fledglings, had all long passed—were still raising their voices to the rising sun; while that morning chorus might not have approached the joyous volume of May’s, or even June’s, it was still loud and decidedly enthusiastic. A month ago I could have padded around the property’s boundaries wearing nothing more than shorts and flip-flops and been perfectly comfortable.
Now, the silence—or what passes for silence, anyway—along with the later dawn and brisk temperature, was telling. A portent of changing times and days to come.
Looking down the river, with a thick wall of greenery along either side, it is hard to imagine those banks stark and open, leafless; difficult to recall the gray-green color of the water, or a sheath of pale ice along its borders. And yet I know that season is coming.
The light this morning was still warm and golden. But there was the gold of turning maples in there, and of October’s shagbark hickories.
Maybe that’s why the birds were so quiet…because they, too, noticed and understood the light.

24 comments:

Richard said...

Lately if I step out and I'm surrounded by silence, that means there is a hawk in the tree nearby.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-
I so appreciate your natural understanding of light, sound and silence,movement, stillness and changing patterns, habits colors, hues and shadows that surround you. I really enjoyed walking with you this morning.
I recall, when a few years back my son's senior English class was asked to write about what they were going to miss about their life in Guilford as they went off to college .My son wrote about the colors and sounds of the seasons at our home - the smells and view from the windows and doors - his writing ws beautiful. THe 'English teacher' commented on his paper saying that he misunderstood the assignment because she meant for the writings to be about places in Guilford,like the town green, or the historic Whitfield House etc..... Good Lord - she really missed the boat, huh? Mind boggling.
Again, I so enjoyed your river side world this morning and all of it's ever changing, surprising, promising and inspiring gifts.

Love to you
Gail
pece......

p.s. A few posts back when I re-commented and wrote about a hug? My goodness - I had enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine just prior to that brazen and bold description of what ended up being a few leg wraps beyond a hug. sorry if I offended you. eesh.

The Weaver of Grass said...

The birds are quiet at present here in the UK Scribe, because they are moulting and like to keep a low profile. Only the English robin keeps up his song, come what may. Lovely writing as usual and glad to see your blue heron header is back today - yesterday it never appeared for me and I sorely missed it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Richard…

Ha! I've been reading your hawk posts. I know exactly what you're talking about, too, because throughout the winter, when the Cooper's hawk made one of his daily rounds to see what tasty tidbit he (or she) might be able to scare up around the cottage, the usual chatter at the feeders suddenly ceased. Instant silence—as noticeable as any noise.

I'm ticked you got to add another "lifer" to your list, too.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

First off, no offense taken. Don't worry.

Second, it's amazing your son's teacher failed to see a job well done when it was right before her nearsighted eyes. It was her preconceived expectations and limited imagination at fault; you son has every right to miss whatever he misses—whether that's a building or view, a smell or sound, or the old drunk down at the corner looking for a handout…the choice and thing missed is his to say.

Third, again, thank you for your nice comments. I glad you enjoyed this morning's quick post.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Well, the bird quiet didn't last long. Perhaps fifteen minutes after I came indoors and began to draft out the post, I heard through the open window almost every single bird I'd mention as being silent singing in their usual boisterous manner—and they're going strong still.

Still, the die is cast. The earth turns and follows it path through the heavens, and the seasons roll steadily along one into another.

Glad to hear my heron header is back in place. I hope it stays there.

Thank your for your nice words.

Bernie said...

Where you live must be very beautiful, I love stillness and quiet.......:-) Hugs

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

Question? Last evening around six we were watching the goings on around the woods edge and trees and out of no where a swarm of dragon flies began to appear - there were hundreds. I have never seen anything like that. What is your take on that?

thanks Grizz

love ya
Gail
peace.....

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, it's that time of year, Grizzled. Here in England,in 2 or 3weeks time, there'll be a faint autumn-ish chill in the air.

Wanda said...

Your photo of the river and light is beautiful...the sun's golden glow on the trees and the reflection in the water make me think of fall and what's to come.

Right now our Carolina Wrens are farther from the house, most of the day finds them with their young out by a large brush pile that's closer to the woods...but then off and on during the day you can hear their loud song...which I think sounds like "Where are you,
where are you, where are you?" and if one answers back, it's "Here I am, here I am, here I am."

KGMom said...

The photo is perfection--absolutely capturing what I call the chardonnay light of early fall. I love the warm yellow of that light.
Fall is coming--even though the last of summer heat tries to hang around.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

It is a really lovely setting. I like the quite, too. It is peaceful here…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Certain dragonflies do bunch up like that and move. I've witnessed it once, maybe a decade ago. It was in my mother's front yard. Her home was not at all close to any sort of lake or pond or stream—yet on this particular afternoon, the front yard suddenly filled with dragonflies, swirling and flying about.

I can't remember which species it was, but somewhere in my notes I have a letter from an Odonata (dragonfly/damselfly) expert giving details of this behavior, and identifying the species I saw. I'll try and see if I can't dig that info up for you in the next couple of days. I have it on my old computer, I think. My guess is that you saw the same species doing the same thing.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

It sure felt fall chilled this morning—though it warmed up before noon and the rest of the day was summer hot.

But the seasons are still on the move…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

The view down the river and the shot of it I took this morning and ran with the post, reminded me very much of fall, too. Of course dawn's light is often golden instead of pinkish; but this just seemed exceptionally so for a very few minutes.

I was always taught that the Carolina wren is singing, "Sweet tater, sweet tater, sweet!" I'll try your verse out tomorrow, though…see if my wrens are more hungry hillbilly or lost conversationalists.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

As I told Wanda, that light was just that warm yellowish color. I didn't fiddle with the image except to crop a bit off the lower part to "square up" the rectangle a bit. I like "Chardonnay light," though, and will have to steal that term for future use.

Our summer heat just arrived—such as it is. As chilled as this morning was, I'm not sure how much it's going to manage to hang around.

Rowan said...

That is such a beautiful tranquil photograph with a definite touch of autumn in it. The woods are quiet here too all through most of August, the birds are hidden away while they moult after the frenetic hard work of feeding and fledging their young. It's as though Mother Earth is pausing and taking a deep breath before moving on into the autumn. This will be my last chance to read Riverdaze for a couple of weeks and I'm going to print this and take it with me so that I can read and enjoy it again and feel the peace and tranquility of that wonderful scene.

Kathiesbirds said...

Oh, the turning of the season and the turning of my heart, back to days when I too knew that fall was in the air, and frost not far behind! It would come very early when I lived in Maine. Now it comes much later down here in the southwest. You have described it well! You made me remember!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

You have it exactly right—it is as if we're now in nature's deep-breath pause before moving to that next stop on the seasonal circle.

Yesterday's golden dawn light and cool temperatures reminded me of where we are and where we're going in the coming weeks. August isn't fall, or even September, but sometimes, if we look and listen—even if we're hearing mostly silence—we can see and hear and smell, we can feel, the shape of things to come.

Have a lovely, fun, and more than anything, safe journey. I'll miss your nice and thoughtful comments. And when you return, please read the blog following this one as I think you'll find it interesting given the photograph with this piece.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kathiesbirds…

Every region has its seasonal rhythms—and if we live in a place long enough, that rhythm becomes a part of us, embedded in our subconscious, but always there throughout the rest of our lives.

I'm glad I could take you back to that other place.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

I just knew you would know something about the swarm of dragonflies. And please don't go making yourself crazy searching for more info - if you come across it, great.

And yes, Fall is approaching. There are colored leaves on the ground and despite 90 degree afternoon the mornings are cool and chilled. I love it. And the colors, oh my the colors - as the shadows move across our home it sends dancing hues of color and shade that only happen as Fall approaches - it is magical.

Love you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

The "going crazy" business is a short trip! :-)

I'm almost sure I still have that dragonfly info copied or still on my old computer. You're lucky—or I'm lucky to get to appear so smart—in that it's one of the few dragonfly oddities I have any firsthand experience witnessing. I'm pretty clueless otherwise when it comes to dragonflies.

And yes…fall is magical.

Rita said...

Sometimes life speaks to us louder in stillness and light than anywhere else. We just have to be open to it. And you always seem to have a keen sense to see beyond the ordinary. Very lovely post.
Rita

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rita…

Life does speak in silence…and in the slant of sunlight through green leaves and the hum of bees. It's up to us to listen and look.

Thank you for your nice words.