The long wait is over — autumn is officially here! The new season swept into town in a shower of raindrops under cover of soft gray skies. The trees have yet to flash autumn a warm greeting of color, but the mushrooms? Oh, the mushrooms! They are welcoming autumn with all their might, much to the delight of the deer, who have been eagerly dining on the delicate morsels springing up throughout the yard and woods.
So many beautiful forms! Rounded and smooth, ruffled with fringe, embossed with dots. Buttons, cones, discs. Red, yellow, and tan against the bright green moss. And, of course, stark white against the fallen leaves, black with rain. Perfect on this day of balanced light and darkness.
Each year on the equinox, I return to a beloved poem by Lisel Mueller. By now it is an integral part of my life’s yearly cycle. Favorite excerpts are below. Happy Fall, everyone!
One More Hymn to the Sun
You know that like an ideal mother
she will never leave you,
though after a week of rain
you begin to worry
but you accept her brief absences,
her occasional closed doors
as the prerogative
of an eccentric lover . . .
You like the fact that her moods are an orderly version of yours,
arranged, like the needs of animals,
by seasons: her spring quirks,
her sexual summers,
her steadfast warmth in the fall;
you remember her face on Christmas Day,
blurred, and suffused with the weak smile
of a woman who has just given birth
The way she loves you, your whole body,
and still leaves enough space between you
to keep you from turning to cinders
before your time! . . .
She never gave up on you
though it took you billions of years
to learn the alphabet
and the shadow you cast on the ground
changed its shape again and again
- Lisel Mueller, The Missouri Review, 2.1, Fall 1978
Happy New Year to you! Another twelve months of Walking in Season begin today! Our New Year’s Day walk along the path was Bennett’s first non-appointment-related outing, which felt fitting and right, given the number of times he “walked” the trail in utero!
Bennett and I walked a tiny portion of the trail and then headed home, while Matt made the full circuit with the camera. We’ve added a new stop for 2011 — a little lagoon — and if all works as planned, we’ll begin tracking an entirely new location later in the month — stay tuned!
On the ground in Williamsburg are the last remnants of a Christmas Day (and Boxing Day) snowstorm that provided Hampton Roads with its first white Christmas since 1948! The snow was beautiful — wonderful to look out upon while nestled in the bed, nursing and enjoying our new little family. The lovely white drifts are fast disappearing, however, with a warm front that arrived today — it was a balmy 64 F when we were out and about!
As always: the entire set of Walking In Season photos (beginning January 2010) can be viewed here.
Hoping you had a wonderful holiday, and wishing you and yours peace, health, and happiness in 2011!
Stop 1. The last of the snow, melting away!
Stop 1.5. Little white hillocks.
Stop 2. Slushy wetland.
Stop 3. The path has been cleared of leaves since last month…
Stop 3.5. A little lagoon — it will be one of the first stops to turn green in the spring!
Stop 4. Birders were clustered here with cameras and binoculars, but we don’t know what avian visitor they were pursuing!
July is here! And with it: a welcome cool snap. This June was one of the hottest on record in this part of Virginia. When the weather cooled yesterday from 99 F (with high humidity) to 81 (with moderate humidity), all of Williamsburg breathed a sigh of relief. It’s been hot and dry for too long… As you can see below, the plants are parched, and the creeks and rivers are low, low, low. We’ve got a break from the heat — now send us some rain, Ma Nature!
For me, June has always been a month of malaise, while July is a month of action. I’m always happy when it arrives! So many summery things to do! Picnics and barbecues and campfires, swims and hikes and strolls, visits to and from family and friends. Matinee movies on hot days. And of course, work on the ol’ dissertation in between.
Remember, the complete set of monthly Walking in Season photos can be seen here. A happy July to you! If you’re here in the States, enjoy the holiday weekend!
Stop 1. Grasses and sedges going to seed.
Stop 1.5 The water is low, still, and murky.
Stop 2. So dry! And coated with algae, algae, algae.
Stop 3. Walking in the shade is lovely.
Stop 4. A big turtle and two little ones basked on a log. They were super-cute, but are invisible here.
Happy May Day, everyone! It’s Walking in Season time again! Williamsburg and our favorite local walking trail, the Greensprings Interpretive Trail, are awash in green. The contrast between last month’s photos and this month’s is the most striking yet — check out the complete set of photos (January-May) over at Flickr!
Though we walk this trail almost every day, watching the seasonal changes unfold in real time, we’ve found there’s something really special about this monthly ritual of photographing our favorite stops the first day of each month, noting the spokes of wheel of the year as they turn by.
Do you have a favorite path (or body of water, or backyard view) you’d like to photodocument through the seasons? Matt and I encourage you to begin — you don’t have to wait until January 1! The seasons are a cycle — no beginning, no end. Anytime is a good time to jump in!
If you decide to give it a whirl, we’d love to see your Walking (or Sitting or Boating or Biking) in Season albums. Please do leave a link in the comments so that all can enjoy and admire!
Stop 1. Green, green.
Stop 2. Leaves, leaves everywhere. And pollen still coating the water’s surface.
Stop 3. Finally, a canopy!
Stop 4. Egrets in the wetland (though too tiny to see here).
Even the Canada Geese (and their goslings) were out Walking in Season!
Dense gray clouds filling the sky.
Air cool and thick and wet.
Good walking weather.
Three weeks ago:
Leaves just making their annual debut.
Now, through the neighborhood:
Every tree in full summer regalia.
Magnolias casting aside their old yellow leaves, freshening their wardrobes for the season.
Azaleas fluffing their petticoats of fuchsia, pink, white, and rose.
Rhododendrons about to follow suit.
Last night’s rain still lying about.
Water droplets glowing in the low early light.
Puddles filling every hollow: cupped leaves, divets in the road.
At the trailhead:
A box turtle resting in the middle of the path.
Eau de skunk wafting through the air.
In the woods:
The trail now winding through a tunnel of green.
Forest sounds, so loud in winter — creaks, breaks, scuffles, calls — muffled in a cocoon of leaves.
Tight white blackberry buds beginning to unfurl.
A barn owl muttering from the treetop.
At the water:
Ospreys scouting sticks to add to their fine high nests.
Tadpoles, black and clustering in the shallows.
A lovely one!
[* * * More photos from our gray morning walk on Flickr * * *]
Over the weekend, the camera was busy. The fruits of its labor are now up on Flickr, starting right after yesterday’s catkins: sprouting leaves, fresh flowers, beautiful bark, a tree knot that looks just like a snail’s face (do you agree?), log-hopping Canada geese, and perhaps our strangest finding: a white-tailed deer that looks more like a pinto than a deer, due to a pigmentation anomaly.
For months out on the walking trail, we’d heard murmurs of the deer’s existence. Finally, yesterday, we spotted it! We felt like we’d seen the Loch Ness Monster, or a Yeti. Wild!
Now, leaves are beginning to take their turn in the sun: oak trees, maple trees, tulip trees — all of them are greening.
The oaks, with their young red leaves and spring green catkins, are particularly lovely.
This time of year, aged leaves on the evergreen hollies turn yellow and drop away, while new growth sprouts at the branch tips.
Greenery may be gaining ground, but the flower show is far from finished. Each day, new blossoms show their faces. This week’s favorite: the redbuds, which sing in a purple chorus from lawns and roadsides.
Such a wonderful time of year — all this giddy new life!
Happy April, everyone! Vibrant green is everywhere in Williamsburg — except, it seems, in the exact spots where we take our Walking in Season photos. (Our very own April Fool’s joke, courtesy of Mother Nature.)
You can see flashes of green in these places, though — verdant tufts in the wetland, and bright algae in the pond. We’ve been enjoying warm, sunny days, and all the plants and their chloroplasts have been busy, busy, busy (even if you can’t quite tell from these shots)!
- To visit the master set of Walking in Season photos, head over to Flickr.
Stop 1. The ground is greening.
Stop 1.5. Our greenest photo of the day! Awkward numbering scheme, we know, but we didn’t discover and include this site until last month! Along the walk, it falls between Stop 1 and Stop 2, soooo… 1.5 it is.
Stop 2. Such a lovely one.
Stop 3. Verrrrrry similar to last month’s photo. But not for long! Soon, we’ll have a leafy canopy.
Stop 4. The algae contributes most of the green!
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.
- Jane Hirshfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001)
If you’d like, take a walk down memory lane to see this resilient tree last December.