No, not the great movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Just leaves, decaying, in the middle of autumn.
A mountain park an hour away from northern Virginia. Shenandoah National Park is a very busy place in mid to late October. A similar view of trees (without the vistas that you see in Shenandoah) can make for a relaxing few hours enjoying the beauty of fall.
In the Empire of the Sun, the Emperor Long Xi made it known that the color yellow offended him and decreed that everything in his empire that contained the color yellow was offensive and was to be removed and banished forever. Sire, a cowering servant told him, the light of the sun contains the color yellow. So the emperor proclaimed that everyone must live without the light of the sun and ordered all citizens of the empire to live in caves, for the color yellow is never to be seen again. And so, the people lived underground, never to see the sun again.
In the Republic of the Enlightened, a man shouted that the color yellow made him sad. A great many people heard him shout how yellow made him sad. They all said, yellow makes that man sad, we should let everyone know that yellow makes people sad. And so the word spread that yellow makes everyone sad. And someone said, if yellow makes people sad, we should remove everything that contains yellow. And the word spread that anything that contained yellow should be removed from their midst. And so, the Republic removed everything with the color yellow from their midst.
Some time later, one of their scientist took a piece of glass, pointed it towards the sun and saw the color yellow. The scientist cowered in fear, knowing that he had seen the color yellow, something they all agreed made people sad. He tried to stay silent, but someone saw him hold the piece of glass upon the sky. This man shouted out to the Republic that the scientist had seen the color yellow. The scientist, fearing for his life, told the people that no, he didn’t really see the color yellow coming from his piece of glass. The people did not care. And the scientist was banished from their midst.
Then someone said, what if what the scientist said was true? The light of the sun contains the color yellow! And this thought was shared throughout the republic. And then someone said – “The light of the sun contains the color yellow. It will make us sad.” And the people cried out, the sun makes us all sad. And then someone said, there is no sun in the caves, let us go into the caves. And the word spread and the people of the republic moved into the caves.
In other parts of the world, people wondered. Why do those people live in caves? They didn’t know that the color yellow was deemed unacceptable by the empire and by the republic. And so life went on. They often disagreed amongst themselves. They talked about a great many things and the things that caused harm to some were eventually relegated to the caves. They knew that sometimes, someone brought the things out of the caves. They understood that they cannot control the lives and actions of everyone, but they knew that as a community, they were better off living in a world where they can talk to one other without fear of being struck down. And they knew that as a community, they must always make sure that everyone is respected, and they knew that though they didn’t always agree, a true community cannot survive if they live in fear of each another.
The things that came out of the caves went back to the caves. Sometimes, though, they discovered that the things in the caves were not harmful after all. And so those things from the caves remained in the light, freed from darkness. And the people thrived.
Autumn in Northern Virginia. Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, Virginia. In the middle of suburbia, the woods and wetlands remind you of the true beauty that nature brings.
Flowers blooming. Birds flying about. And tidal basin traffic. Yes, it definitely looks like spring.
Springtime Flowers. If you look really close, you get distracted by the abstract.
Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are wonderful places to explore. Some of the highest tide height differentials in the planet. For the wild, moody coastlines. For the mountains, the ocean views, the forests and the waterfalls. And then there are the buildings that add color and uniqueness to this beautiful Canadian province.
Roadtrip! A mild October day was the catalyst for a short, mostly unplanned trip to the Fort Valley area of Virginia. After an hour driving westward on I66, and lunch at Front Royal, Virginia, it was time to decide. Visit Shenandoah National Park or drive towards the Massanutten high country?
Virginia is a beautiful state. This is especially true in the fall, when canopies of color cover the hills and valleys that roll westward, rising slowly towards the grand chain of peaks that form the heart of Appalachia. Fort Valley is a valley within a valley, so to speak, nestled between the Shenandoah Valley and the Massanutten mountains.
A mere seventy minutes from Washington D.C., Front Royal Virginia is the gateway to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. A launching point to smaller towns and villages that dot the Shenandoah Valley. In mid autumn, the state roads heading west and south are transformed into colorful avenues that beckon further exploration. A left turn at a stoplight. A few miles later, another left turn to Virginia 678. As the road meandered towards the George Washington National Forest, the cloud filled October sky gave way to a kaleidoscope of colors that seemed unending. The red, orange, yellow and green hues of the still leaf filled trees transform into a sonata of color as the road weaved up and down through mountain passes and the valley floor. A quiet Monday afternoon. A stunningly beautiful Monday afternoon.
With birds continuing to migrate southward in search of warmer climes, the number of birds in local birding hotspots have increased dramatically from their summer lulls. The larger birds, such as the osprey, egrets and herons, many of whom made the mid Atlantic their home in the warmth of summer, have left or will soon be leaving. Gone are the ospreys, the green herons, the little blue herons. There are egrets and Great Blue herons milling about, but they too are diminishing in numbers. The hummingbirds have fueled up for their trip south as well. In a few days, these fleet flyers will be but a summer memory.
The warblers are back, at least for a few weeks. The fall foliage makes finding these birds even more difficult for novice (or inexperienced) birders such as myself. You will hear the rustling of leaves, a chirp or some other sound that betrays their presence, but even with such clues, fall colors meld with the faded colors of these birds. Still, the challenge and enjoyment of finding these birds are undiminished. The number of birding groups in the local nature preserves increase dramatically in the spring and fall migration season. There is something calming about birds – a perfect tonic to the busy life we live in urban and suburban America.
I visited Huntley Meadows three times in the last four days. The last vestiges of summer, in the form of an upsurge of warmer temperatures, have drawn out a bevy of revelers in the outdoor venues. Children with their parents, their classmates on field trips – the happy noise brings a different life to the naturally quiet places that are in diminishing numbers in an urbanized America. To hear a child exclaim their surprise in seeing a frog, a bird, a flower, a fallen leaf is to understand that within us all, it is this sense of wonder that must survive and thrive if we are to remain vibrant in mind and spirit.
Winter will soon be here. The kingfishers will remain, as long as the waters do not freeze over. The bald eagles roam the riverside. The shovelers, the mallards, mergansers will be sharing the preserves with those of us walking the boardwalks in the frozen winds that will soon come. Autumn leaves are falling. In the changing season, the endurance of life is in full display.