A New Autumn 28 September 2014
Sandhill Cranes, Crex Meadows, Wisconsin
Paper Birch and a veil of bluestem
Wetland plants shimmer from pale green to yellow and golden brown, glowing as fields of gold. Senescence is not just death. It is preparation for new life, dormancy that delivers resilience, promise of future, strength and resolve, wise living, and investment in continuity. Death of parts gives life to the whole, the roots living on. In all that it does, the autumn senescence also builds the great stage on which great migrations play their scripted dramas.
Quaking Aspen grove
Migrating birds echo a strength of preparation. Small songbirds, the North American sparrows and wood warblers, fill the cool, clear night skies with delicate contact calls, sweet voices from invisible lives just above, hidden in the blackness and endless stars. To the unaware, they are not there. To the aware, the gentle sounds ring with brilliance, color, and memory. They are out there, even if we can't see them, even if we can't be with them. They are just out of reach, just beyond what we can know. They are there.
With such a vigorous and heroic story unfolding in the night sky, I imagine the morning light will bring hundreds or thousands of feathered travelers, all of them letting down to the safety of the trees below. Now, in broad daylight, I find the hen of the woods, the Grifola fungi, delicious and meaty, to be growing near the base of a favorite oak. Sugar maples glow on the hillsides, prickly ash turn brilliant yellow in places, and basswood quickly turn over from green to yellow to brown. The quaking aspen dance between lime green and golden yellow. Everywhere I look I see the signs. Life is traveling by so quickly. Autumn has arrived, and it has done so quite suddenly. The cranes will be gathering. It is time to visit old friends.
Trumpeter Swans, early morning light. Can you find all five swans?