Category Archives: autumn

Autumn thoughts of old men (and a few others)

 

Buffalo Point is a special place for me.  At no time is it more special than autumn. It is always a sad time.  I know what is coming and I resist the march of time. Toward winter and toward death. In the back yard (which is really the front since it faces the lake)  which is where we spend most of our time, facing the lake, often on the deck, I looked around. I saw rotting trees. Is that bad? Is rot bad? No. Forests must rot. If the trees did not die we would soon be choked out. That would not work. Just like the planet would be overrun if we did not die. In this world, death is necessary? I don’t know about the next. That is why old men must move on and should not hang around too long.

I am like that old poplar. It no longer has leaves. I don’t have much hair left. Old is good.  Someone once said, “No wise man ever wants to be any younger than he is.” Obviously, he was not a wise man. The tree had a hole near the top. To me it looked like a woodpecker had drilled a hole in the rotten tree looking for bugs to eat.  The hole may be used by another bird as a nest next year. This old tree is still of use.  So are old men. Of little use not much more than that.  Not the same use they once had, but different. Still important. Old men need to impart what they have learned. What else is a long life for? In this day- and-age old men sometimes resort to blogging to try in their small way to give a flavour of what they have learned or think they have learned.

 

Albert Camus, one of my favourite writers and philosophers captured what I think about autumn– “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

 

Delia Owens, who wrote Where the Crawdads Sing said “Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” I would say they don’t so much soar as meander.  Maybe that is because I no longer soar, if I ever did. But I sure can meander.

Jane Hirshfield, the author of The Heat of Autumn said, “The heat of autumn is different from the heat of summer. One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.” That applies to me too. I find apples too acidic, perhaps because I have acid reflux problems.  Life is never simple for an old man, but an old man can enjoy simple pleasures, like an autumn stroll in the woods.

Elizabeth Barrett Browing once said, “Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound.”  Imagine that. How can you hymn an autumn sound?  I wish I could do that.

George Eliot said, in autumn the still melancholy could make “life and nature harmonize.” I actually think that can be done at any time, but since autumn is my favorite season, why not reserve it for autumn.

The American poet e. e. cummings put his thoughts into a form that an old man can understand: “”A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.” It is clear I too have known autumn. Sadly so.

One of my favourite writers, Wallace Stegner, who wrote one of the best Canadian books ever, Wolf Willow, also said it well, “”Another fall, another turned page…”  It was time to head out to our deck and turn another page of a good book.

Autumn at Buffalo Point

 

 

Chris and I spent one last weekend at Buffalo Point before her surgery. It was still a little before prime colours I thought, but the colours were still wonderful. Sometimes we just have to be satisfied with what we have.

 

After we unloaded our stuff, we sat on the deck and enjoyed a lovely fall day. Chickens were twittering non-stop as if they were getting ready for the winter to come.

The next day  I went for a stroll thinking the colours were too green.  With hindsight, I think I was too critical.

The second day the colours looked better than the first. Could they really change so much in one day?

 

 

Next morning. I went for a quiet stroll with my camera. This would be my last day to soak in fall colours.

 

The pond and lake were perfectly calm. It gave us trust that things would work out.

 

I was not in a hurry for autumn to come, because I knew what came after it. Ominous winter. This year that uneasy feeling was amplified because Chris would have surgery a couple of days after we returned.

 

 

Golf courses have some use, besides chasing little white balls.

 

 

An Autumn meander in the Whiteshell

 

 

 

 

After a lovely picnic at Whitemouth Falls we continued on our autumn jaunt. Our second stop was Old Pinawa dam. This is a historic old dam that was  was built to provide electricity for modern Manitobans. You can see the old dam in the distance.

Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love the changing of the colours. In Manitoba the colours are not as spectacular as they are on the east coast, but ‘You gotta dance with the girl you brung.’

Our walking club had visited this site earlier in the summer.

 

A branch of the Winnipeg river flowed by with impressive enthusiasm. I was surprised there was so much water here as we had a very dry summer.

I was a little disappointed that the autumn leaves had not yet reached the peak of colours, but I tried to make the best of it.  You gotta dance with the girl you brung.

I knew I would not be able to return to this place this autumn since next week. after Chris’ surgery I would be seconded to perform manservant  duties.  Of course in my opinion I performed those services with sterling diligence.

 

After we completed our too brief visit at the dam, we continued  our meander through Whiteshell Provincial Park–one of the jewels of Manitoba.  Meandering is good.

 

 

 

A Nature Jaunt

 

 

 

This has been a very strange year. Chris was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in January. The surgeon told us it was a big one and he clearly recommended surgery. In fact he said, he wanted to do it as soon a possible, because he hated seeing his patients die before the hit the operating table. We agreed with this entirely. In fact, we didn’t like the idea of Chris dying on the operating table either. Her surgery had been postponed twice already because Covid-19 was overwhelming the Manitoba health care system.  Both of us were very worried it would be postponed again. So one week before surgery was scheduled we went out for a nature jaunt to get our minds over surgery.

We went to Whitemouth Falls near Seven Sister Falls power station. It was a magnificent early autumn day. I am a sucker for autumn. I love the colours and try to capture the feeling of them, sometimes going beyond the real.

We have been to the modest falls a number of times but this was the first time we were able to get onto the island.  In fact, because the weather was so dry this year it was no longer an island. We had a lovely picnic in the warm fall sun.

 

Life does not get much better than that. And I got to photograph autumn leaves. We don’t have the colours they have down east, but is you look you can see.

Chris had surgery at the end of September and after that we had to stay home while Chris recuperated.

Thankfully Chris survived the delays and we enjoyed a little bit of autumn.  We only enjoyed a couple of days in the autumn. But we tried to make the most of them.

Like leaves, our lives are brief and then we flame out. Not always in a blaze of glory but we do the best we can.

As Shakespeare said,

 

Out, out brief candle!

LIfe’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

Life was good and we wanted to keep it. And savour it. This day we did exactly that.

 

 

 

Beauty like a bended bow

 

As W. B. Yeats put it, “Beauty like a bended bow.” In the poem as I recall it, he was referring to Helen of Troy whose face launched a thousand ships. Men sent to battle to get her back or keep her captive. That is what autumn is to me. It is a dangerous beauty.

Like us, autumn won’t last long. If only we can make a spectacular exit as autumn does each year.

The birches and aspen were gorgeous, particularly set off against a beautiful blue sky. What goes together better than bright yellow and brilliant blue? Not much.

 

 

Disorderly Divine

 

 

 

When Chris and I were in Arizona 2 years ago we heard a series of lectures at Arizona State University by a professor from Oxford, Jonathan Bate,  on the subject of “How the Humanities can save the world.” I found them fascinating and have meant to blog about those lectures. Must do that soon.One day Bate  discussed a little known poet by the name of John Clare who Bate says is the most important poet of nature in the UK.  Even though he is not well know.

John Clare was an English poet and the son of a farm labourer, who became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and his deep sadness at its disruption. Like me, he hated to see the commons desecrated. He hated to see the ecosystems of flowers and community disturbed.

 

Clare was not very well known or respected until the 20th century when many started to realize that he was one of the most important poets of the 19th century. Perhaps poets like Clare can help the Humanities save the planet.

He can do that because he points, however vaguely to a new attitude to nature. I have blogged a little bit about that but again must do more. I must return to this subject as soon as I can relegate politics to the backhouse where it belongs

One of Clare’s poems which Bate talked about was “Autumn” in which Clare describes the changing of the seasons:

Thy pencil dashing its excess of shades,

Improvident of waste, till every bough

Burns with thy mellow touch

Disorderly divine.

I love that idea. Autumn leaves evince the disorderly divine. Perhaps what we need to save the planet is the disorderly divine. Perhaps that is what the Humanities can give to us. That’s a lot.

This was the Day the Lord had made

 

This was a magnificent autumn day at Buffalo Point. It was Thanksgiving Weekend and we had a lot to be thankful for. We got together with our two sons Nick and Pat who live in Manitoba and one daughter in law, Debbi, and 2 grandchildren, Nolan and Stella. They were all healthy and fully employed.

 

We interpreted Manitoba laws to allow a small gathering. We figured 7 was small, but had tinges of guilt and fear. Just a little.

 

 

 

The blue skies were extravagant and the yellows were sharp. In Manitoba we had few reds. That is a pity, but the colours were still sensational. I  went walk to take photos of the autumn leaves.

 

Astonishingly when I went for a walk I strolled toward the golf course to admire autumn leaves in brilliant foliage. Much to my surprise I met some of my old golfing buddies who I used to golf with regularly before I became a recovering golfer.

Can you imagine that they would waste the time golfing on such a beautiful day? It seems absurd but it was true. What cretans. I must search for a better class of friends. Some who might appreciate truth and beauty.

My mother used to always quote to me a passage from the Bible. “This is the day the lord has made.” She wanted us to read it at her funeral. And we did. This was such a day.

 

Autumn Magic

 

Autumn is my favourite time of the year to travel. It might even be my favourite time of the year.

This year I sadly confess I nearly missed it . As a nearly retired guy who works only a little bit, this should not have happened. I let one file of mine interfere with my nice quiet life. My grand daughter Nasya was right when she told me, “Opa you suck at retirement.” Harsh words but children tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it.

Maple leaves are the prize of autumn. We don’t really have them in Manitoba other than a few scattered spots. That is a dreadful pity. I know a stop just across the border in Ontario where I try to go at least once each autumn. This year it was very disappointing. Most of the regular spots were barren of maple leaves. I don’t know if I was too later or too early or it was just not a good year.

I did find a couple of trees but most in some places I deemed not very photographic. At least I could not capture them there. So I concentrated on finding them on the ground or rock instead. As some sage said, when the world gives you lemons make lemonade.

 

I always associate autumn with the last part of life. Maybe that is why I appreciate it even more now. The end of life; I am there now. The spectacular beauty; I am not there. Sad.

I believe maple leaves are the prize of autumn. I did not find many, but I did find beauty. It was worth the trip.

The Great Northwoods Forest

 

This was the last day of our glorious fall trip. We had enjoyed 2 weeks of astounding autumn beauty and it was drawing to a close.

In northern Minnesota we started seeing boreal forest. Less maples, more birch and aspen.

One might have thought that after 2 weeks of the eastern forests this would seem dull. One would have been wrong. This too was magnificent.

The beauty of these forests dusted lightly with snow were gorgeous. The colour were more pale, but still shone

Who would ever have thought snow would be so beautiful? Snow is beautiful. It is just a shame that it is so cold. Whose idea was that?

It was a great way to end a great trip.

Serpent River and Changing Fall Colours

 

The colors and autumn foliage right outside of North Bay were astounding. Unfortunately, there was a lot of road construction in the area and we could not stop the car. This was a pity and to some extent haunted me for the rest of the trip. Next time…

I did have a chance to stop at the Serpent Riverfor to take some photographs. It was a lovely stop with a bunch of maple trees and a path that led under the bridge over the river to the north side where the river sped rapidly by a gorgeous red maple I could not miss photographing. I also photographed a number of individual leaves with my close-up lens.

The process of changing colors is fascinating. A green leaf is green because it contains a pigment known as chlorophyll. During the growing season chlorophyll is abundant in the cells of the leaf and as a result of that the green colors of the leaf dominate even though there are other colors present in the leaf. The green masks the other colors and as a result leaves of trees in summer are usually green.

Chlorophyll is very important in plants. It captures rays of the sun and uses the resulting energy to produce food for the plant. The plant eats the light and then uses the energy to manufacture the food that it needs from water and carbon dioxide. The sugars that are produced are the basis for the plant’s nourishment which is the sole source of the carbohydrates that the plant needs for growth and development.

The food manufacturing process of plants  “use up’ the Chlorophyll. In other words it is broken down in the process. During the growing season the plant replenishes chlorophyll and as a result the leaves stay green for the summer.

In the autumn when the daylight hours are reduced and temperatures cool and rays of the sun are lower  and  the chlorophyll degrades the pigments that were hidden by the green, such as  yellow and orange pigments are revealed. These pigments are found in the carotenoids that are present in leaves the whole year round, but their orange-yellow colors are usually masked by green chlorophyll.  In the fall the chlorophyll is replaced at a slower rate than it is used up and the supply of chlorophyll is gradually dwindling as a result and the masking effect fades away uncovering the glorious colors of autumn that slowly start to show through. As a result we see yellow, orange, brown and many hues between. These pigments are actually present during the summer it is just that we can’t see them.  I love how these colours are slowly revealed. I particularly love the transitional changes from green to orange or yellow.

The red pigments on the other hand are different. These are synthesized again once about half of the chlorophyll has been degraded. The reds, the purples, and their blended combinations that decorate autumn foliage especially in eastern North America come from another group of pigments in the cells called anthocyaninsthat are not present in the leaf throughout the growing season, but are actively produced only towards the end of summer. The process here is gradual as well showing the brilliant reds and purples.

In most temperate regions anthocyanins are present in only about 10% of the trees, but in some areas like New England they can be found in up to 70% of the trees. These colors appear vividly in the autumn eastern forests particularly trees such as maples, oaks, dogwoods, cherry trees and persimmons. These pigments can combine with the carotenoids’ colors to create the sensational orange, fiery reds, and burning bronzes typical of many hardwood species.

Together these processes produce the magic of autumn. They lead me to produce impressionistic images of autumn leaves, like the one below.

For quite a while I have suspected that climate change is altering the timing of the change of colors in autumn. Recent studies have shown that this might be true. Experiments have shown that poplar trees have stayed greener longer with higher levels of CO2 even if temperatures remain the same.