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Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

What exactly marks the end of a season and the beginning of the next?  The calendar has little to do with it.  Despite the subtle changes that slowly happen over days and weeks, one day these all accumulate and the transformation from summer to autumn is all too evident.  A lone trembling red leaf sends out the message to all:  summer has ended.

Canada geese too announce the message in the marsh with their honking call.  The days are getting shorter.  Even the sky and waters at sunrise seem different, less warm and more ominous of the darker, colder mornings ahead.

As if to compensate, the marsh grasses glow with golden hues.  Do herons dread the colder days ahead as much as we humans do?  Warm and wonderful summers are especially difficult to leave behind.

The end of summer means food will soon be difficult to find for many creatures.  In the marsh, the woods, and even the house, spiders can be  seen diligently spinning their webs in the hopes of capturing the last of the season’s flying insects.

Those who haven’t prepared for the colder days ahead will be singing their sad songs in the days to come.

Please let me out so I can sing in the sunshine one last time.

This post was written in response to Scott Thomas’ End of Summer challenge at Views Infinitum.

All text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012.

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Canada geese may be just barely visible beneath a cover of marsh mist but their morning talk is unmistakable.  Their communication is not just limited to their signature honk but to a medley of sounds as they wake to another day in another marsh.

According to Ducks Unlimited, Canada geese may be only next to humans in their talkativeness.  Greetings, warnings and contentment are all communicated from the time a gosling is still in its shell.

However, as there are some humans who like to talk more than others, there are probably some geese who are also more talkative than the rest.  I wonder if some geese put their heads underwater to get away from the nagging chatter under the pretext of finding food.

geese talking

Don't even think of flying next to her today!

Considering the amount of effort that goes into planning a trip abroad for a large group, it’s probably the communication skills of geese that allow them to be so successful in their migrations year after year. 

Geese are known to share the responsibilities of leadership, especially in flight.  Also, if a member of the flock is injured, two will stay behind to nurse it back to health, rejoining the larger flock together after it recovers.  Any of these actions would require a great deal of planning and discussion.  No wonder they’re so talkative!

Once the geese have breakfast, make their flight plans and leave, quiet returns to the marsh until the next flock arrives to spend the evening.  

For more information about these beautiful and talkative birds, see Facts on Canada Geese at Ducks Unlimited.

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This weekend’s venue for the Fall Marsh Conference was the beautiful salt marsh in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.  The location was ideal, as northern delegates such as the Canada geese were able to stop over to attend the events during their migration south.

This year’s conference theme was The Tides of Change which gave all attendees opportunities to discuss strategies for the future while sharing lessons learned.   A panel presentation facilitated by Dr. Bob Cat, entitled The Coyote Bounty:  What it Means for the Rest of Us drew standing room only crowds, especially from the rodent delegation.

Four workshops were also well attended:  Innovative Uses for Discarded Tim Horton’s Coffee Cups, Coping with Off-leash Dogs, Managing Expectations for Migration Destinations after the Gulf Oil Spill  and Winter Storm Survival Techniques.  Once again this year, the sessions were coordinated by the great blue herons.

A gala evening on Saturday featured music by the Sandpipers.   Though the main vegetarian course was delectable, many of the attendees chose to find alternate fare off-site at the Roadkill Café on Bissett Road.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. B. Eagle who provided some keen insights into life at the top of the food chain.  It should be noted that conference organizers greatly appreciated his willingness to refrain from eating any of the delegates until after closing ceremonies.

Thanks to all who worked diligently behind the scenes to make the conference a success!  We hope to see all delegates again next year.

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As autumn takes hold of the Nova Scotia landscape, trees release to the wind the leaves they’ve nourished since springtime.   When frosty days come around, it’s time to let go.

Though we don’t have leaves to lose at this time of year, perhaps we too have things to release in this season of change…   

Letting go of expectations is a good start.  So often we hold such firm expectations of what life should be like at any given stage, how others should be, how we should be, that we fail to see the what isWho would have thought a fungus could have petals or a log could hold a snowflake?

Wild creatures seem to have so much less of a problem than we do leaving possessions behind that no longer serve a purpose.  It’s odd that we’re the beasts who fiercely hang on tooth and nail to clothes or homes we’ve outgrown and objects that would be better put to use by someone else.  Who’ll find comfort from the winter cold in this abandoned flicker nest?

It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease.  Hack away at the unessential.
~ Bruce Lee

While summer’s abundant blooms shout out “More is more!” autumn’s Michaelmas daisies whisper wisely “Less is more.”    

What about past successes?  Don’t the things we’ve done well in the past tug at us to continue to do more of the same in the future?  Letting go of these might seem ridiculous unless we consider the toll of doing work that does not fulfill or that may no longer be an expression of who we are now in this new season of life.   A tree that foolishly clings to its beautiful, brightly colored leaves may be completely destroyed in a wind or ice storm.

Perhaps this letting go of our concept of self is the most difficult.  Just as it’s easy to define a tree by its showy leaves, it’s all too easy for us as well to define ourselves simply by our outward skills and talents.  We are so much more and still full of surprises, at any age.  Hey, where did those raspberries come from so late in the year? 

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
~ Lao Tzu

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autumn gold

It’s been half a century since gold was mined in Cow Bay.  Gold deposits here are part of the evidence that support the theory that this corner of Nova Scotia was attached to Africa prior to continental drift.  Today, the closest we have to gold is found in November’s plant life along the Salt Marsh Trail. 

These golden grasses and leaves exhude a warmth and richness that were not present earlier this fall.

the marsh in september

The Marsh in September

The goldening of the grasses takes place at the same time that the water turns a steel grey.  

marsh grasss nov

The colours look especially burnished in the morning sunlight.  Even when there is frost on the seaweed, there is a warm glow to the landscape.

frost in autumn

The few leaves remaining on the rosebushes that border the trail are also golden.  They stand in bright contrast to the brilliant red rose hips that were orange earlier in the season.

gold rosebush

Even the November sunrise seems more golden…

november sunrise

Which makes me wonder… why do we usually think of November as such a dull, dreary month?

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tamaracks

The tamaracks that were barely noticeable in the forest all year long now take centre stage. 

small color wheelTheir soft, burnt orange needles provide a bright contrast to the clear blue sky.  Being complementary colours  (set opposite one another on the colour wheel), orange and blue look especially vibrant together in the autumn landscape.

Tamaracks don’t mind wet, boggy soil.  Their Ojibway name, muckigwatig, means ‘swamp tree.’  They thrive in Cow Bay wherever there is little competition for sunshine with other trees.  These deciduous conifers are tolerant of extreme cold.  Their delicate appearance often enhances residential landscapes in northern regions.

tamarack needles in fall

The inner bark of tamaracks is edible and has many medicinal uses among Native Americans, among them, treating burns, wounds, inflammations and headaches.   It’s also a favourite of porcupines. 

Along Bissett Road, which has extensive stands of tamaracks on both sides, it’s no wonder that porcupines are a frequent item on the roadkill café menu.  I’ve crossed paths with them twice in as many weeks, but both times managed to see these slow walkers in time to yield. 

bissett road

It won’t be long before the tamaracks shed their needles for the winter and once again fade into the background of the forest.  But for now, it’s tamarack time.

For more information about tamarack trees, see The Last of Autumn’s Leaves and Needles

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october vines

Overnight winds have pulled many of the leaves off the trees and beaten the vine leaves repeatedly against the bricks.  Many are now on the lawn.  It won’t be long before November’s bareness sets in.  But not yet.  There’s still time for one last look at October’s stunning palette of colours.

vine palette

I’ve taken squares of colour from the photo of vines above to create a palette of hues representational of this time of year.

colour wheelIn art theory, red and green are considered opposite one another on the colour wheel.  These are known as complementary colours.

Some of the vine reds appear purplish and there is also some yellow present.  Purple and yellow is another complementary combination, as is the combination of orange and blue.

blueorangeblueWhether it’s a light or bright blue,  October’s sky contrasts beautifully with orange tinged leaves.  Their warm and fiery hue manages to balance the crisp coolness of the clear blue sky, making autumn seem less chilling.

complementary pairs

When unmuted complementary colours are placed next to each other in a painting, the line between them may appear to vibrate.   Despite the mutedness of some of October’s colours, the juxtaposition of pairs of complementary leaf and sky colours in the landscape still produces a visually vibrant liveliness that exudes warmth and excitement.  No wonder this time of year can inspire so much awe among onlookers.

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vine and sky

You can’t hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life.

maple leaf mandala in blueIsn’t it odd how the colors of leaves turn warm just as the weather cools?  In art, it’s known that warm colors like red, orange and yellow advance, while cool blues, greens and purples recede.

Could the warm colors be nature’s way of bringing leaves to the forefront so that we can examine and appreciate them one more time before they’re gone?

I’ve often wondered what autumn would look like if the leaves turned cool in color instead of warm?  How would the landscape look with leaves of icy blue and turquoise instead of fiery red and orange?  Perhaps the combination of cooler weather with cool colors would be too much of a shock to us after months of warm summer weather.  The warmer colors are nature’s way of easing us into the cold winter ahead.

sky blues

Unlike the leaves, autumn’s skies turn bluer than usual at this time of year.  Above are excerpts of three of the bluest skies I’ve photographed in the past month.  Each one is such a unique hue.  Who would have thought there could be so many versions of ‘sky blue’ to be found at this time of year?  Nature’s true colors never cease to amaze me.

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autumn through living room window

Sometimes, even when sunny skies beckon, we still have to stay indoors.  Sometimes it’s because there’s house or office work to be done.  Other times, it’s because we’re sick.  Such is the case with me this week with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

From behind glass, there’s still much to see of nature outside.  Trees continue to change colour and some of the vines on the house have turned red and pink.  They adorn the edges of the living room window.  There’s no time like the present to appreciate them as the wind will soon blow them all away.  In the summer months, they make drapes in the window unnecessary and bring nature’s colours up close.

second storey vines

Vines can also be seen from one of the second storey windows.  Although their colours are still bright through the screen, they’re even prettier seen from the outdoors, as in the photo taken on the weekend. 

leaves through front door windowSilhouettes of leaves can be seen trembling in the wind through the glass of the front door’s window as well.  By the time witches and goblins show up at the door in a couple of weeks, they’ll be all gone.

I’ve been so accustomed to stepping outdoors several times a day.  There is something about fresh air and sunshine that makes us feel better just by being outdoors. 

So why do we tend to stay in when we’re sick?  I wonder if perhaps we would recover more quickly outdoors.  The challenge would be to not engage in too much tiring activity. 

From the kitchen window I can see a large snowshoe hare that’s decided to come close.  Its ears are perked and it’s sitting just below the window, posed perfectly still for a photograph.   Sometimes, when you can’t go out into nature, nature knows, and comes to you.

hare from window

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maple leaf mandala

Through the ages, mandalas have been employed by Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Native people the world over to create sacred spaces and focal points for prayer and meditation.

seastone mandalaOften painted, they may also be made of stone, colored sand or stained glass, such as in the rose windows found in Gothic cathedrals. Some, like Tibetan sand mandalas, possess an impermanent quality, as their deconstruction is also part of the ritual surrounding their creation.  Mandalas might be intended as representations of the universe, the unconscious self or the relationship between the inner and outer realms. 

Mine are simple creations made with natural materials found in my yard:  leaves, flowers, twigs and tree cones.  The first mandala shown at the top of this post was made from the colorful leaves of a sugar maple and a yellow birch.  The second was created on my gravel driveway from sea smoothed stones gathered near the ocean.

peony leaf mandala

This peony leaf mandala also includes fern leaves, purple asters and two-flowered Cynthia blooms.  A curled up wooly bear caterpillar is at its centre.

fir cone mandala

Above, heal-all flowers have been arranged with balsam fir cones around a mushroom centre.  The creation of each mandala gave me an opportunity to reflect on autumn’s beautiful colours and textures.  I’m thankful to live in a place where nature’s palette is ever changing and fresh.   

My mandalas will slowly fall apart, be moved by the winds or wild creatures, decay and return to the earth.  Their ephemeral quality only serves to enhance their present beauty.

Have you ever considered using natural materials to create a mandala outdoors?

 

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fungi 10

Fall is an excellent time to see fungi in Nova Scotia’s woods.  Whether growing on the ground or on decaying trees, these life forms are varied, with some species being edible.

fungi

Of the ten types of fungi I managed to photograph in my yard in the past week, I am only confident of the identification of one, the orange jelly at bottom centre which is considered edible if boiled.  Even with the use of an Audubon field guide, I’m still wary of my ability to correctly identify the less colorful varieties.  Despite minute differences, they all look so similar to one another.

Although a distinction is often made between mushrooms and toadstools, with toadstools often considered toxic and with a tapered (as opposed to straight) stalk, there is no scientific basis for this.  The edibility of mushrooms is best determined by experts rather than through trial and error.  The adage that there are old mushroom pickers and bold mushroom pickers, but no old, bold mushroom pickers is probably true. 

fairy rings and toadstools by richard doyle

Due to the poisonous and hallucinogenic nature of some fungi, they have often been given magical properties in art and literature.  Faeries and gnomes are frequently depicted beside toadstools as in the 19th century painting of Fairy Rings and Toadstools (shown above) by Richard Doyle.  I once came across one of these ‘fairy’ rings in my yard.  They originate in the growth of fungi around the outer edge of the decaying underground roots of old trees.  It seemed pretty harmless in the light of day, but who knows what magic transpired in its midst during moonlit nights.

fungi with copper pennies

Copper penny test to determine toxicity of mushrooms as per Wind's comment

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caterpillar traffic

Traffic along the boardwalks and pathways leading to and from the seashore is slow enough for caterpillar crossings these days.

beckoning waters

It may be October, but the beach is still open to visitors despite the absence of tourists and high temperatures.  Sparkling waters beckon beyond the sand dunes.

rainbow haven beach

On such a quiet morning, it’s hard to imagine this beach covered with human flesh baking in the summer sun just a couple of months ago.  The scene is peaceful and quiet, except for the roar of the waves.

sand sea and sky

The sand, sea and sky all work together to create a vista that’s refreshing and uplifting.  The sea breezes still feel soothing on the face and the sand is still warm on the feet.    

warm feet

irish moss at rainbow haven beach

Waves continue to make their deliveries of Irish moss onto the shore.  Also known as carrageenan, this sea moss is raked along some beaches in Nova Scotia.  It’s used as a thickening agent in many foods, including coffee cream and ice cream.

playing in the sand

Hot temperatures aren’t a prerequisite for children to enjoy playing in the sand.  Their needs are simpler than ours.  Wherever did we get the notion that beaches are only to be enjoyed in the summer time?

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