Discover more from Moments
variations on a cliché
Moments of connection in nature are sometimes funny, like an encounter with feisty hermit crabs or a friendly chipmunk. They are often delightful, as you notice something amazing that you just never saw before. But they are also occasionally bittersweet. They are also, now and then, just simply a soul-deep reminder of the enormity of life.
It’s a cool, dappled morning, and I have drawn near to the hazelnut shrub in our orchard. I’m mesmerized by the richness of the color palette, where droplets of every shade of early light seem to have tumbled together into one place. Here, it is warm and cool. Here, the edges of the seasons commingle. Here are both endings and beginnings. It’s joy. And it’s anchored in melancholy. It’s a quiet moment.
And I realize that this moment has quite a long story. It is, as a good friend of mine recently wrote: “exactly the kind of full story I wanted and it was about what I expected…that is life is it not.”
It’s fall again. As predictable as pumpkins at Halloween, the calls for your best fall foliage pics propagate across the digitally connected world. As they should! Fall colors are intensely inspiring. Brief enough to make you rush out to capture them before they’re gone. Bold enough to be different every single year, yet dependable enough to be predictably rewarding. Rich with meaning about grand cycles and inevitability and hope - thus prone to cliché. And so it’s not surprising that I find myself writing about a fall moment in a fall season, right along with the rest of the world.
My own personal photos app is full of fall foliage pictures because, every year, I am stirred by the beauty of autumn and enthusiastically capture it in pixels! And though fall foliage is breathtaking on the grand scale, I tend to prefer drawing near to individual leaves. Each one has its own story, after all, traced within the patterns of its intricate structure: flames, embers, delicate stained glass…
And when you stop to think about the beauty of that individual leaf, its story will stop you cold. The leaf is dying. Its life’s blood, chlorophyll, which has always cloaked it in a glow of impenetrable green, is draining away. The colors that remain were there all along, invisible beneath the radiance of full health. To look closely at an autumn leaf is to connect with the grace of exceeding beauty in final moments.
This year, I’m in a bit of a fall season of the soul (of course I am). Last year, my family temporarily relocated to provide end-of-life care for my mother in her last stage of Alzheimer’s. This year, we returned to our little homestead, out of necessity abandoned, to begin the long process of excavating the plans and hopes and dreams buried beneath a year’s worth of dust and weeds.
Upon our return, the landscape looked tired - perhaps it was only our eyes that were tired? But no, it really had been an unprecedented year for Maine (as for so many places). There had been a late freeze, a long drought followed by sudden floods, and record-breaking summer heat, month after month. These things, especially taken all-together-at-once, take their toll on forest and field.
This year, when the fall foliage arrived, I could only appreciate it from a distance, or with a soft focus.
Whenever I drew near to the maples and birches and serviceberries, I could see distress written in every leaf. Speckled brown, liberally littered with holes, tatters, and curling, broken edges. They fell early, abandoning tenacious holds and exposing bare branches before first frost had even arrived. A melancholy anchor.
Yet here I stood. With one lone hazelnut. Absorbed in quiet joy. Drawing near once more to beauty that persists in trial, in trouble, in sorrow, in all things.
It’s been rough. The leaves are dying. But hope is a renewable resource.
shop custom prints: the Fall Foliage collection
If you like what you see, visit my online gallery for custom-print wall art and decor, and bring some moments of connection home to your everyday life!
This Substack is free! Join me behind-the-scenes each week as I share the stories behind my nature photography gallery, capturing moments of connection in nature and everyday life.
Know anyone else who enjoys nature, photography, connection, and stories?
Enjoy bringing the outside in? Come visit us at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store for hand-crafted, nature-inspired Artisan Soaps, Woodworking & Home Goods.
hand-crafted. from the homestead. original designs | natural materials | small batches