Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November's Garden: After the Leaves Come Down




            After the leaves come down, it's time to appreciate what we have. Something new, something revealed, something gained when something old and beloved is lost to time: the product of the spinning earth.
            Cleared views, brilliant sunsets, plenty of blue water.
            The leaves don't come down all at once. Some trees and shrubs turn in stages, giving us the contrast of darker and lighter colors. Their numbers thin and we peer between half-bare branches at the shapes and colors revealed behind them.
            When a young, enthusiastic maple tree, a volunteer that rose beneath the shelter of the big oak in our back garden, released is leaves last week, a new and brighter carpet covered one portion of the garden, a place that catches the angled rays of the morning sun. The sun on the leaves turn mid-morning a canary yellow.
            After the leaves come down, we see more sunsets. Mainly, of course, because the suns sets so early that we are still out and about and struck by this amazing phenomenon when it takes control of our senses before we are done with doing things. Or we are stuck in traffic when a turn in the highway delivers a light show. If we are driving westward into the sun, sundown means we can see the road again, free of blinding light shining in our eyes; now the hills and trees before us are gilded by its light. When the leaf fall bares the branches more of the skyline opens for our inspection.
            Last weekend we walked just far enough away from our neighborhood to climb a small rise in the neighboring town of Milton and gain a height from which to view the sunset. The western sky was a misty peach as the sun was setting, because while mostly cloudless the atmosphere was not really clear and water vapor (along with a dose of urban pollution) colored up in the slanting rays. But after the sun sank, the sky was back-lit by a stirring deep pink, nearly red, a rose-color deeper than the November roses currently still blooming in the front garden.
            When the leaves come down, and most of the flowering plants in our garden have given up their blossoms for seed, it's time to visit the salt marshes by the shoreline at Wollaston Beach. If I haven't been there for a while, the wild outdoor atmosphere and the scent of the air makes feel that I'm stepping out of a personal closet and entering the world. You can't live on first impressions, not matter how stirring, but the experience of waking up the senses is inevitably worth the trip. Along with the clean air, and the nearness of the sea, the air holds hints of decay, the dry fragrance of dying leaves, the slight wet stink of a narrow path through tall grasses, with its muddy spots and the semi-land, semi-water landscape of the adjoining salt marsh never more than a few steps away.
            Birds, squirrels, the scrape and crackle in the fallen leaves that signifies some creature at his daily pursuits, generally just out sight. Though last week I startled a rabbit whose white tail fled from me but on a parallel course, so every ten yards or so, I started him up again until he gained enough distance that our paths diverged.
            The water was high in the marsh the last couple of weeks. At intervals the city decides -- at least I assume (and rather hope) that this is a conscious choice -- to open the flood gates a bit more and let the marsh fill with water from Quincy harbor to a height that nearly drowns the spartina grass. Against the blue of the sky and the blue of the water, the grasses show their own waves of golden tints of amber and ochre and saffron. Waves of color ripple in the salt marsh.
            A special little transformation, courtesy of the lowering perspective of November sun.