In a Northern Neighborhood

At the end of October my neighborhood was ablaze with color. This isn’t unusual – what is unusual is that this year I was in Michigan to experience it for the first time… once again. For the past 11 years we have been in Florida from the middle of October to the middle of November. We leave our northern neighborhood just as a few branches of color are showing here and there. Every year I eagerly watch for these small patches of color just as in the spring I eagerly watch for the gentle green of new leaves. We return to Michigan about this time in November to bare trees and the only fallen leaves to be seen are on the floor of wooded areas and on the edges of country roads. We return to Michigan to see what I see outside my windows now as we move close to our Thanksgiving celebration. Skeleton trees bare of leaves.

But I am still thinking about the past three weeks and am so thankful for being able to experience them. We had a really warm early November so I spent a lot of time outdoors taking photos and raking (well, more time photographing than raking). I was seeing autumn in my neighborhood through the eyes of someone living in the southern United States. I was seeing autumn from a macro perspective because it felt so exotic.

I noticed how the tree full of golden orange leave (first photo) in our side yard had a few bare limbs, exposing seedpods that are hanging on long after thousands of them dropped in early summer. When I was a child we called them whirly-gigs and would toss them in the air to watch them twirl to the ground. One of the wonders of nature. Next spring I will be pulling up small maple tree seedlings from my garden beds.

It is so amazing how many leaves are on a full-grown tree. The tree can be covered with brilliant leaves and still, underneath the ground is covered.

We needed to rake these up because the grass had grown during the warm days and the man who mows our lawn was coming the next day. We also went for a walk and both Jim and I moved to the east side of the street so we could walk through the dry, fallen oak leaves blown there by the wind. Oak leaves are the most fun to walk through because they are big and make lots of crinkling sounds when we do that special kind of shuffle-walk that we learned as children walking to school.

In a few days the weather turned colder, more seasonal, and the wind blew hard. As I drove down the country road on my way to somewhere, the leaves were whirling in circles on the road and leaves were falling so heavily that it sometimes made me wonder if I would have to turn on the wipers to see. Then I laughed at myself. What joy.

And then they needed raking again.

My inspiration for writing about living in my northern neighborhood this autumn came from the Lens-Artists Challenge # 123: Found in the Neighborhood.

Kinda Fall Squares

Becky is enticing us to post square photos this month that relate in some way to “kind.” Thursday’s sunrise was showing bright in a clear blue sky so I decided to venture out on a photo mission to find some examples of fall. It has been the first time that I have ventured out on a photo taking excursion since the Naples Botanical Garden closed in February. I didn’t go out when we returned to Michigan in the spring, nor in the summer except when I took a few photos on outings with our travel trailer. Southern Michigan doesn’t get full color until late October but on the first of October there are kind-of hints of what is to come. For the past 10 years we have left for Florida before full color came.

We have been tidying up the garden getting it ready for the spring growth next April. It always feels like an act of faith, of hope for the future, when I cut back spent plants and pull up annuals with ideas of what I want to do next year. I convinced Jim that some of the fall flowers should be left for a little while longer – like the mums, asters (above), sedums, and zinnias. Cutting down blooming plants always feels very unkind to me – like cutting their life short.

Yesterday Jim pulled the giant marigolds by his shed. He was pushing them, roots down, into a large white cardboard container he uses to carry yard cuttings across the street. By the time he finished it looked like a 5 foot high bouquet in a white vase, bringing me some comic relief from the election stress. I thought the marigolds could have stayed in a few more days, but we all pick our battles and I know Jim wants to get his yard work done before the snow flies. Next week we will have several days of sun with temps in the high 60’s, perfect for finishing up my garden work. This year we won’t be going to Florida in the middle of October so we don’t feel the pressure of getting it done before we leave. And I will get to experience the full-on fall experience.

But for Thursday morning I had to be satisfied with mostly macro images of what are kind-of hints of what will be the full glory of fall color in the coming weeks. I headed for the wet-lands that are on Folks road and the Lime Lake County Park. This road is on the route I took to work for many, many years and every morning I turned the corner from Mathews to Folks road to breath-taking beauty. This morning was no different so I had to pull over.

It is an ordinary marsh, with marsh grass and other plants that like wet conditions covering all but where a small lake is. But there are always beautiful colors and movement and light at the marsh. And of course there is a lot of sky to see.

Thunder storms were predicted for early afternoon and I could see dark heavy clouds on the western horizon and directly above me there were hints of what was to come. I have lived here for all but two of my 76 years so I notice how clouds are different during different seasons. The clouds of fall are a combination of high, fluffy clouds of summer and and the heavy low dark clouds of winter. The dark heavy clouds to the west dropped hail on us as I was eating lunch when I returned home.

This square macro shows a hint of the color that will surround Lime Lake in the next few days or weeks. On this one relatively young maple tree there were red, yellow and green leaves. I kinda think this is a micro (or macro) of what we have here in my neighborhood during the first week of October.