The November sun is vibrant today after this morning’s hybrid eclipse. It is the sort of clear golden light to reach in through the window panes of house or car, grab you, and say, “Come outside and bask in my warmth and goodness.” The sky is deeply blue. Every red and golden leaf is a panel of stained glass in the mosaic of this sparkling day.
There is one particular sycamore tree, on one particular pond, along the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown we visit each year when the leaves finally transform themselves into brightness. It is a very large and well shaped tree. Caught on the perfect day it is a sight worthy of the pilgrimage.
We decided the best use of this clear blustery morning was to set out together to make the drive and see what we could see. The weather is still swirling off the coast, the wind truly cold now, whitecaps frosting the rivers. I was surprised to see how many people were bundled into winter coats and hats on their morning walk or bicycle ride along the Parkway.
Leaves blew in golden showers across the road, reminding us of the approaching snow now close at hand. Where shafts of light poured through the forest canopy the leaves were illuminated for a moment, then lost in shadow.
We pulled into the lot beside the pond and discovered our much loved tree nearly bare. Its leaves must have blown off in Friday night’s storm, and we missed its color this year. Still lovely in form, its bark mottled, with a few stubborn leaves still clinging to its branches, we sat and admired its beauty and remembered other years when our visit was timed more perfectly.
I was looking today for Virginia creeper turned scarlet. I love the intense red vines climbing through trees and shrubs along the road. Staghorn Sumac, a slightly duller crimson, and blazing Dogwood trees grabbed at our attention. We passed so many beautiful spots, but with a car on our bumper and no safe place to pull off.
A fellow photographer tipped us off to a blazing red tree somewhere in Yorktown. She didn’t mention exactly where- only that it was stopping traffic as car after car stopped to admire it or take a photo.
So we went in search of it. Yorktown isn’t large, but it is full of dead ends and closed streets.
After a lengthy search, we headed back to the Parkway. I decided its leaves must have already blown away. But, there beside the ramp, we spotted a towering tree across the field ablaze in orangey red splendor. It must be the tree she had seen. We slowed enough for me to snap two photos from the car window.
A tiny bit of space left on the memory stick, we revisited the pond and noticed how everything looked fresh and new seen coming from the other direction. Life is a bit like that at times, as the people and happenings in our lives subtly shift and change when we look back over them from “here” and “now”. We see so many little details and connections we failed to notice the first time.
Ironically, we noticed how much of the best color surrounds our own garden; the transition from Parkway to neighborhood to driveway seamless. Happiness and peace fill the air today. Clear calm has returned to the sky with the storm off the coast, but the wind is still blowing in from the northeast.
A good day for sailing, if you have a strong stomach and a trustworthy boat. (I remember a certain November day, much like today, sailing the Rappahannock River in an old wooden skipjack. That was another lifetime ago it seems.) No boats were out on the rivers this morning, and no one fishing from the banks. Only photographers were braving the wind to go near the water.
We were glad to come back inside at journey’s end to mugs of hot coffee, and to admire the garden from inside, through the windows. Leaves float from limb to ground with every new gust of wind, but our attention has turned to other things on this golden November afternoon.
When I see
Heaven and earth as
my own garden,
I live that moment
Outside the Universe.
– A Zen Harvest: Japanese Folk Zen Sayings,
All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013