Autumn Finds Its Way To Our Neck Of The Woods

It has been a somewhat disappointing transition process in our surroundings so far this autumn season.  Other than the occasional exceptions, leaves have been slowly but surely falling off the trees without a hint of how colorful and pretty that process can be on a good year.   It must be the weather.  Nevertheless, we have persisted in looking for the signs of significant change as we walk the C&O canal towpath during the weekends.  Last weekend was a particularly drab one, with the threat of bad weather discouraging others in our group from walking with us.  But the two of us did go out to check out the changing of the seasons.

Regardless of how pretty the process of autumn is in our parts, one cannot escape the feeling of change in the air. The cooler, and soon to be cold, weather forces you to contemplate the winter months that lie ahead.  The changes in the landscape remind you that soon it will be time once again to batten down the hatches and power through a time of year that provides a challenge and a mood of its own.  The cycle goes on.

Chaos in the Fall

Here are some pictures that capture some of the chaotic elements of the season of Fall from the visual perspective.  There is the appearance of the fallen leaves as seen below.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are the branches on the trees (in this case our red maple tree), even as colors change during a span of a couple of days.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, here are a couple of scenes from the woods during the fall process.   In the past I have not thought about these kinds of views as being chaotic, but there is a certain randomness to the elements that contribute to the overall appearance that leads me to conclude that it does meet the definition of such a process.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps the fact that a particular process appears to be chaotic does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with it.  Here are other interpretations of chaos.

The Passage of Time (10/5/2009)

Not sure if this fits into the weekly category, but since life is a quest for something or the other, I decided to post this old letter from 2009 with a few pictures I took at that time…

img_1612The leaf dropped out of the tree and was caught by the gentle Autumn breeze as it fell from the sky.   I swung my arm lazily as I ran by, as the leaf drifted across the trail.  Amazingly I made contact and the leaf ended up in my hand.  Alright!, I said to myself. At least that is what I thought I was doing.   But these days I am sometimes not sure if I am speaking to myself, or if I have said something out aloud without realizing it.  But it did not matter in this instance since I was all by myself.   I could behave like an happy two year old without having to worry about somebody looking at me in a strange way because I was not “acting my age”.
img_1602img_1652Perhaps, this is one reason I enjoy being out there on the trail.  I can scream out loud with a sense of wonder every time the heavy locomotives of the freight trains power past me.  I can even sing loudly to myself with only the flowers, the birds, and the occasional curious squirrel hanging around to hear the cacophony.  I can drop the burden of “expected” behavior and be myself.  I can take unplanned diversions from the trails into the unmarked woods if I want.  I can follow the butterfly or dragonfly as it flitters from flower to flower, hoping it settles down long enough at one location without flying away at my approach, so that I can take its picture.  (It does require a lot of patience!)  It is truly a healing process to get away from “civilization”.  Maybe I have a stupid smile on my face when I am out in the woods, and this why the few people I encounter seem to respond to me with a pleasant Good Morning.  Maybe they are all as crazy as I am.

The heat of summer is behind us and the cooler days of Autumn have arrived.  There are the cool and crisp Fall mornings – with the clear and bright blue skies, with the occasional fluffy wisps of clouds floating by – looking like light cotton balls that are being gently pulled apart by some unseen hand in the sky.  There are the cold and gloomy mornings, when the clammy feeling penetrates your jacket, and even your skin, when the heavens are filled with dark ominous clouds that block the sun and scurry across the sky, as if in a hurry, eager to get somewhere.
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The leaves are just beginning drop from the trees and there are already a few spots of reds and yellows in our neighborhood and on the trail.  The Frittilary that I saw in large numbers at the beginning of summer in Black Hill park have long since gone, and so have the somewhat rarer Monarchs.  There is still the occasional Tiger Swallowtail to be seen, but other than a few Skippers, this really seems to be the season for the Sulphurs.
img_1587The unidentified dragonflies and damselflies are still around in smaller numbers, occasionally flying around in pairs as if they were indulging in some sort of mating ritual (perhaps they are!), but they will also disappear as surely as the butterflies and the leaves on the trees.

The various types of ducks that I used to observe at Black Hill have long since gone, and I am looking forward to Spring when I hope to see the somewhat rarer migratory species once again.  The Canada Geese that are supposed to be migratory never left, and they dominate the lake and the river these days.   The cardinals are still around, but the robin will only return in spring.  My good friends, the blue heron, can very frequently be seen in certain sections of the canal fishing.  (Yesterday I saw a whole bunch of cormorants perched on some rocks in the middle of the Potomac near Harpers Ferry.  I was even fortunate to capture the picture of a raptor, perhaps it was an eagle or a osprey, diving into the waters of the Potomac to come up with a fish that it had caught!)
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The last flowers of summer can still be seen in the woods of Black Hill and along the towpath – the purple chicory, some white and purple fleabane, some asters, a few goldenrods, and some others that I still cannot identify.  I wish I had more time!img_1597
img_1649img_1668I cannot wait to experience the vast expanses of the fields of Virginia bluebell on the towpath in Spring.

And thus the days, the seasons, and the years go by, and one finds that one has survived to reach the age of 50!  (Teresa had arranged a great surprise Birthday party!  Thanks to John from arranging his trip from Bangalore so that he could spend the evening with us.)  The times seem to rush by in a hurry, and before I knew it, over 20 years of marriage have gone by and the kids have all grown up.   In just a few years the next generation will be ready to take over the reins from us, and eventually we will also be consigned to the dust.  The cycle of life will continue. I have to remind myself constantly that we need to do our best while we are here, and that we also need to make the best of what we have without being greedy.  In tough times I have to try to remember that I am one of the fortunate ones, and that the present will eventually become the past.  In the short time that we have here on Planet Earth, perhaps we can try to leave our mark by doing something positive for others, and we can also try to leave the world in a better shape than we found it.  Maybe, just maybe, this could be The Meaning of Human Life.

Life goes on.   Keep on Truckin…
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Look Up!

Having been in the habit of spending a lot of time outdoors in the woods on my feet during the last few years, it is instinctive for me to look up to enjoy my surroundings.

Taken to an extreme one can look directly up a tree. A clear blue sky, either through the leafless branches of a tree in winter, or through the greenery of the leaves of the many trees in summer is memorable.
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One can also look forwards and upwards into the distance on a trail to capture a perspective like this.
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Sometimes you do not have to look up that far to ahead of you to observe something notable above you and around you.
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If I had not looked up I would have missed the northern flicker in the following picture,
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAor the red-headed woodpecker in this one.
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Sometimes you look up to the sight of something simple like these birds on a wire, seemingly in some form of communication with each other,
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAor you might see a sight like this Norfolk Southern locomotive crossing the Potomac on a trestle bridge looking distinctive in the early morning light.
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If you do not look up you could miss the great blue heron that flies high over the Monocacy Aqueduct,
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAor the small  and colorful aircraft that lights up the cloudless sky over the river.
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Don’t forget to look up!

A Walk on a Foggy Morning

The fog began to increase in intensity as we approached the parking lot at Carderock next to the Potomac river and the C&O canal.  The temperature was below freezing as we bundled up and stepped out of the car and on to the trail.  The sun began to rise into the sky through the  trees behind us as we started our walk at a brisk pace, trying to get rid of the cold in our extremities.  The fog began to lift slowly, creating a unique and somewhat surreal lighting over the still waters and in-between the trees.  There was some kind of magic happening!

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The sky had completely cleared up by the time we finished our walk and returned to the parking lot a couple of hours later.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Autumn Treats

Something crazy happens to me every autumn season.  It usually happens when the colors of the leaves on the trees are changing, when the leaves begin to fall to the ground.  I am so taken in by the change that is going on that I start taking plenty of of pictures.  It does not matter that I have gone through a similar experience of autumn many times over many years. It does not matter that I have taken pictures of the changing scene almost every year.  It does not matter that I am actually seeing all of this change in the area around my home, so that it is more than likely not a new experience.  It does not matter that I tell myself that I have seen and done this stuff before, and that there is probably nothing new for me to record.

The craziness manifests itself in ways that are unique to the season.  I end up placing my camera in the car where ever I happen to be going during the daytime, regardless of the purpose of my trip.  I end up taking trips into the countryside and driving the lightly traveled country roads around me for hours looking for the fall colors.  I end up stopping the car in potentially dangerous spots beside the roads and stepping out to take pictures, perhaps even stepping into the center of the road if the probabilities seems to be in my favor.  I end up making U-turns in my car to return to the spot on the roadway where I saw something that caught my attention.  I end up walking around trying to find just the right angle so that the sun lights up the trees in a manner that accentuates the colors of the leaves that are dying.  I end up waiting patiently for the clouds that are drifting past the sun to get out of the way so that the trees are lit up just right.  And all of this happened to me once again this year!

And it turns out that I still continue to enjoy looking at the new pictures I am taking. But even among these pictures there are some that present a special treat to me.  There is something about the way these pictures effect my state of mind.  Take a look at some examples.

I was driving out of my neighborhood when I came upon a scene that caused me to stop the car right there on the road.  I had to step out of the car and wait for just the right moment for the swiftly moving clouds behind me to get out of the way before I was able to take this picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI usually run my loops from home beside Seneca lake with the minimum load I can carry.  But knowing that the time was right, I had carried my camera in my backpack while running on this particular day even though the added weight increased the level of effort needed.  I was rewarded by this sight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen this was what I saw while I was driving to different points on the C&O canal to experience the fall colors.  I wonder if she was using water colors!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, this one was closer to home on the road leading out of the neighborhood.  The splash of color caught my immediate attention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a treat!

The Falling Leaves

A dear friend of mine lost his mother recently.  Death is but a part of Life, but knowing this does not make the event any easier to deal with.  But even in the grieving that takes place when this happens, one also celebrates the life that was lived.

The falling of the autumn leaves and this season of change are an especially poignant time to be reminded of the transient nature of life, and my friend has experienced both the beauty and sadness of this moment multiple times in the passing of both his parents during different Fall seasons.  And in going though this experience, he has also been blessed with many wonderful memories that come back to him, memories that will always be with him, memories that he shares with his family and friends.

Life does go on, and we will continue to celebrate it even as we remember our loved ones.  This one is for you my friend.

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The falling leaves….