When the heavy autumn mysts sweep inland enveloping the grasses and fencerows, obscuring the shapes of things, hiding movements and dulling all but the brightest of colors, the animals in their camouflaging coats of fur and feathers, the shadowy druidic oaks and the nearly-naked Indian plum and bitter cherry trees all but disappear in the shifting haze.
If I step into the mysts, the horizon becomes elusive, receding or creeping forward as the amorphous grey expands and contracts. At times I imagine or perhaps even sense the off-shore breeze breathing it forward, seeking my identity, my reason for entering into its grey refuge and is ready to dampen my enthusiasm, to test my resolve with its chilly, damp vapors. Yet when the sun burns through the fog, the winds disperse the grey, or the contractive dimming light of autumn rain lifts, my spirits rise and I witness another world enlivened by color, form and texture rivaling the pallets and fabrics of the autumn fashion scene. (*CSI)
The basic, more drab background colors of grey, ivory, nude, khaki, chocolate and white which designers embellish with cool and warm color tones and appropriate accessories, exist in nature as foundations for embellishment with leaves, blossoms, fruits, berries and functional accessories such as spider webs and nests. In the fall time, the base tones color the underlaying structure of the graceful snowberry hedgerows lining fields and country lanes and abound in the world of fungi and its plethora of forms and textures.
The cool fashion color tones of autumn with names such as loden and pine green, grape, syrah and fuchsia purple, spruce, powder blue, peacock, cobalt and moody, and the dark ink tones greet me in the grey-greens of the lichens, the flowers for sale in the farmers’ markets, the Michaelmas daisies in the country gardens, the rich purple juice of the expressed elderberry, the needles of the blue spruce tree, the powdery blue elderberry and blueberry fruits, the brilliant flash and flicker of the Steller’s jay flitting about in the coniferous forest, and in the moody skies overhead as the weather patterns establish a cooler dominance, the night sky lengthens and turns into the dark inky, almost black of night.
The warm color tones inspired by the natural world and reflected in the world of fashion: crimson, tomato and orange-reds, sweet potato and toffee, raisin, rust and gingerbread, carnation and dried rose pinks, mustard seed and yellow, plus aged cabernet and bordeaux appear in the bounty of fruits both fresh and dried, produce, flowers, leaf colors and even some fauna as the season deepens; and, in the pressed juices, serving wines, elixers, infused honeys and medicinal tinctures prepared with the fruits and roots of autumn.
Sometimes forms or textures dominate and colors become secondary. The leaves of the majestic big leaf maple live up to their name and often measure over a foot in diameter. The bark of the tree is gnarled and grey. The trunks sensuously grow in close contact and branch into thick strong arms capable of holding the heaviest layer of rainforest mosses and epiphytes. The big leaf maple is a dominant deciduous tree whose branches reach out over the country lanes we walk each day. It is a joy for me in the autumn when their leaves fall in thick carpets of gold turning to russet begging to be trod upon, to shuffle nostalgically through them releasing their sweet aromas and hollow, leafy sounds.
In nature, form follows function . All summer long, the curvaceous golden-bejeweled, orb weaving cross spiders have spun their spiraling webs in the fields and along the fence rows to catch the flies and wasps drawn to the foraging cattle herds. Their bodies have grown plump with eggs and they now spend their days resting close by the web site, often not replacing the torn spirals for days at a time. On mysty days, their sagging, water-laden webs are easily seen. In late October when the developing eggs have stretched their abdomens very tight and they feel the mothering urge, the cross spiders will leave their sticky traps to find suitable leaves or crevices in which to spin and secure their golden egg sacs, filling them with hundreds of eggs. The sacs will remain safely hidden until the warm weather of spring arrives and the yellow spiderlings emerge en masse.
Of course, autumn would not be complete without a celebration of the highly decorative cucurbit family – the gourds, pumpkins and squashes. One of our local farm stores is currently bursting with a rich harvest, much of which is raised in the their own fields in central Washington in the Columbia River Basin. The descriptive names of the gourd family fruits intrigue me and allude to their colors, forms and outer textures: warty, turban, banana, Cinderella, cheese wheel, spooky, ghost and bumpy. Their colors range from the basic foundation tones to the cool and warm colors, from cream, to blueish, blue-green and several orange and orange-reds along with yellows. One even has a pinkish cast. Their sizes vary from mini to gargantuan although none are record-breaking. Interspersed throughout their displays and making it feel very rustic and country-like are roughly-hewn, locally-recycled wooden sheds, boxes, shelves and of course, the traditional Indian corn cobs, and golden corn shocks.
Autumn begs immersion by way of the sensual to witness the colors, forms and textures of this transformational and regenerative fall time journey. It’s an emotional time of letting go of the summer past, a time for reflection and relaxation. The beauty that delights the eye, the fruits and foods that feed the body and the celebrations that feed the spirit sustain us as we enter more deeply into the dark of the year in preparation for our emergence into the light next spring.
So invite your friends and join me next time as AlpineLady adds recipes featuring hearty fall soups, spreads and dips, entrees and desserts centered around the bounty of the season.
Until then, blessings on your autumn adventures!