The Naturalist's Corner

I’m so dizzy

I tripped over the equinox and fell backwards away from the sun, and now I’m spinning so fast it takes me longer to raise my head high enough to see the sunrise. The light quickly passes my feet before waffling in the dusk and turning to darkness.

And falling backwards this way, it’s the soft underbelly of the sun’s light I see, the warm reds and oranges and creamy yellows, the kind of light that enhances the interplay and highlights the tension between the real and the surreal.

Autumn screams!

In brilliant orange.

Too loud for ears to hear.

The roaring beauty

Crashes in

And overwhelms the soul.

Perhaps it was autumn in Arles that moved Van Gogh to hack at his ear to silence the beauty. Maybe he was trying to capture that light and confine it to canvas — that’s what drove him to Saint-Rémy.

When we meet the equinox once more and begin our ascent into the languid days of summer, it will be at a slower pace, the days grow but at a slower rate. Now, only a month or so past the autumnal equinox, we have almost an hour less sunlight, and the sun is traveling quickly southward erupting and setting at different points along the horizon.

The angle and pace of change insures we notice — even when we don’t notice we notice — the autumn light. It’s what makes us linger on the deck with our morning coffee. Even when we’re late for work, we can’t help but notice the contrast between the orange and yellow leaves tumbling along the black asphalt. When we come home in the evening, it’s the reason we slip on a sweater and go for a walk.

Outdoor writer Hal Borland noted, “Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?”

Stanley Horowitz wrote, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”

And poet Thomas Hood stated, “I saw old autumn in the misty morn / Stand shadowless like silence / Listening to silence...”

We can’t escape autumn.

Instead of splitting wood or canning the last goodies from summer’s garden, we think about football or that last trip to the mountains, lake or seashore. But it’s the light. It’s that falling away from the sun that connects us to the earth, for we are, after all, earthlings.

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