Tuesday, October 23, 2012


This is a portion of the downstream view from my deskside window. The photo was taken only a few minutes ago, just as a brisk drizzle began. 

As you can see, the sky is gray and the leaves are wet; many are already on the ground—especially those from the five-strong clump of large sycamores in the upper left corner. A lot more are in the air, being blown about amid their descent, loosened by gusts which arrived along with the rain. 

Two minutes before I made this shot, those sycamores still held maybe fifty percent of their oversized brownish-tan leaves. Now I'd guess no more that five percent remain attached to the lattice of branchlets. 

The wooded streambanks are suddenly looking decidedly skeletal as the view opens. Even with the wooly gray overcast, there's a noticeable increase in illumination, as if nature had cranked the lighting rheostat a few notches to the right. A brighter dimness, if you will. 

There are leaves out there yet to turn—though most of these never amount to much, colorwise…another week or so of yellowish-green and then various shades of brown—beige, sepia, umber, burnt sennia, caramel, chestnut—before they, too, give in to gravity and add their topping layer to the fresh carpeting. No, any bright color notes will be few and far between from here on out. Time flows on, just like the river. 

Autumn's dazzling leaf show is beginning its end.         

Saturday, October 20, 2012


This was supposed to be a sunrise shot. At least that's sort of the image I had in mind when I saw the morning's first light come beaming over the eastern horizon. Envisioning something in silhouette—say, the giant sycamore over by the fence, or maybe the walnut up on the driveway—I put my coffee mug aside and grabbed the camera. Then I went out in the yard and waited…and waited…and waited.

Oh, the sun came up. And there was some nice pinkish-orange light. But it wasn't spectacular—and I couldn't find the angle or the foreground object to make an image that worked. My sunrise expectations fizzled.

Then I turned around to head back inside and looked westward. Wow! The still-darkened sky was a deep blue, while fat rows of puffy white clouds caught the burgeoning light—glowing gold and lemon, with peachy pink highlights. All I had to do was point and snap.

It's a lesson I've been relearning over and over all my life: embrace the surprise. Things won't always work out as planned…but look around instead of grumbling about defeat. The unexpected might be better than whatever you'd planned.

I can't tell you how many times I've gone after trout and came home with a bonanza of morel mushrooms instead of fish. Or it might have been smallmouth bass that turned into butternuts. Or bluegills instead of dandelion greens. I've set off on wildflower forays and found fossiles or arrowheads. I've gone hiking to a distant waterfall and discovered a cave. And grumpily attended a boring-but-inescapable cocktail party where I ended up meeting a kindred spirit who became a friend for life.

Moon-the-Dog, my beloved companion for more than fourteen years, was found during a pawpaw expedition in the hills and hollers woods of southeastern Ohio, near the ghost town of Moonville.  

The point is, we don't know where a particular path may lead, can't always predict what the next moment may provide. But serendipity awaits, if only we keep our eyes and minds and hearts open to such possibilites. That's part of the adventure.

Embrace the surprise. Or as Yogi Berra so wonderfully puts it, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!"

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Yesterday, while Myladylove was having her cracked filling looked after at the dentist's, I adjourned the waiting room for a small park area nearby. I'd hoped to while away a half-hour or so making photos. 

As it turned out, there wasn't much autumn color. Many of the trees were already denuded of their leaves, while the hackberries and box elders were dull in thinning cloaks of greenish-yellow. 

There were a few asters around, and the ubiquitous poison ivy, but not much else—the one exception being several modest sycamores growing along the edge of a small pond. They looked great against the intensely blue sky. 

I mostly shot a  few small still lifes, which I'm always prone to anyway, no matter how spectacular the expansive view. 

This hasn't been the greatest autumn for color, and it seems like I've somehow—for one reason or another—missed the best of even those few peak days. 

Still, no fall slips away without delivering a measure of beauty—even if that beauty isn't quite all we expected. Each new passage is unique, an individual experience, and should be taken on its own terms. Just like with people. And I find there's always plenty to admire if you look carefully.

After all, isn't that what keeps our journeys 'round the year interesting?      

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Today was simply gorgeous here along the river…beautiful light, stunning color—though mostly yellows, golds, and rusty tans—and a spectacular blue sky. The shot above of the Cottage Riffle and a nice sycamore on the island, plus the slightly downstream view from just beyond the front door, were taken in early afternoon during the one attempt I made to gimp my way outside for a few minutes.

I'm gimping because I somehow managed to injure my left Achilles tendon Saturday after Myladylove and I had visited our family doctor for our annual check-ups in the morning. Except for the usual blood work yet to be done, the exam went well. We celebrated by going out to lunch, and then ambling around a nearby flea market for a couple of hours before returning home. By evening, I was beginning to notice some tenderness, which had developed into mild soreness by bedtime.

Around 3:00 a.m. Sunday I awoke in a fair amount of pain, and as the night wore on, the pain increased. By morning the tendon—plus the whole rear portion of my ankle, from heel upwards nearly to the calf—was puffed out with swelling, throbbing, and desperately sensitive to even the lightest touch. I could do little except keep it elevated, try the occasional salts-bath soak, rub with sports cream, and attempt to not sound like too much of wimp when I moved my leg a millimeter. Which you'd think would be easy for someone with a high-pain tolerance who's blithely gone through life banging and battering himself up…but confound it, it hurt

Anyway, I spent Sunday camped out in the recliner, reading, snacking, listening to music, snacking, and watching the tube. I snacked a lot, too. The swelling was still fairly sore yesterday—too sore to think about getting out and about—and only a little less sore today. So my fall color photography has been necessarily limited. 

However, I have high hopes for tomorrow…

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Today was magnificent! Brilliant light, clear blue sky. And autumn's bold colors coming on strong. Not warm, however, in spite of how pretty as it looked—thanks to a stiff wind. The thermometer stood at 37˚F when I got up and breakfasted. Nor had it yet reached the 50˚ mark when I'd finished with a morning doctor's appointment and decided to take a roundabout drive home. 

Our color peak hereabouts is normally about the 21-23 of the months. I'd say this year it might happen as much as a week earlier…providing there are any leaves still clinging to the trees by the time we get there. Today's fierce winds tore leaves by the uncountable thousands off with every strong gust. A lot of trees are already bare.

There's still lots of color, though; nature deals in excess when it comes to autumn's lovely leaves—especially golds and yellows and rusty-bronzes. Plus vast fields of goldenrods and roadside clumps of various asters. Red and yellow, purple and gold…and a crystalline blue canopy spread from horizon to horizon overhead.      

Monday, October 8, 2012


The weather watchers had predicted frost for this morning, so yesterday afternoon we brought our few vulnerable plants inside. But as dawn comes over the hill, from the perspective of my deskside window, I don't see any evidence of a silver-white glaze on the grass. Of course that could still occur should we drop another degree or so before actual sunrise. Fog along the river—which was only a slight wispiness a minute or two ago—is, however, becoming noticeably thicker. 

*  *  *
Okay. I've just stepped outside for quick reconnoiter, to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing…or in this case, not seeing. And I was right: no frost. But plenty cold. Too cold to remain out long in only a short-sleeves teeshirt and no jacket. I made a quick upriver snap, then hustled back inside. 

As you can see, there's still not a lot of color, other than an increase in the rusty yellows and jaundiced browns—which is the usual autumnal dress for the leaning sycamores which dominate the riverbanks. Other than a spiraling scarlet flame of high-vining Virginia creeper, there's generally not much red to be seen here along the stream. For dominate reds, you have to go uphill, up the road, where there are maples and sassafras and sweetgums.

But fall is definitely here. We had our first hearthfire of the season yesterday evening—and it felt good. Time moves steadily along… 

Friday, October 5, 2012


Do you recognize this? I found it during yesterday's ramble in an old field up the road. Just this single plant, all but lost amidst a sea of burnished goldenrod and fading asters.

My first thought was some sort of vetch. But then I wondered if it might be one of the clovers. Surely a member of the vast legume family…though possibly not. Native? Escapee from the garden? I ought to know this on sight; there's a part of my brain that keeps whispering, Why you big dummy, that's…at which point the whisper fades. No doubt it's quite common. 

I've thumbed through several field guides, yet nothing seems a good match. Part of the trouble is the plant appears rather past its prime. Of course, I don't know that for sure, either. And naturally I didn't pay sufficient attention to the necessary details in order to key it down in one of my better references. 

Whatever it is, I thought it was pretty, nodding demurely in the afternoon breeze as the sky began clouding up preparatory to today's storm front. For me, a nameless beauty. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Autumn's color is truly getting underway—in some quarters, anyway. At certain corners, a stretch of woodland edge, this fencerow, that particular maple, the change-over is occasionally dazzling. But elsewhere it's still spotty, even almost nonexistent, as if not every bush and tree has yet gotten the message. Or maybe this patchy early color is just the plant-world's example of those folks who always insist on arriving 45 minutes early for church, a movie, or their dinner reservations at a restaurant.

I made the top photo from the truck, just up the road, during a morning shower. The image on the bottom, a view of the river a half-mile upstream from the cottage, was taken a few minutes later.

See what I mean?

Of course some things, such as this spiraling crimson flame of Virginia creeper couldn't turn any brighter, or redder, or prettier if it took another full month to strut its stuff. This individual vine is at its very peak, though other nearby examples range from pink to pale-orange to still fully green.