Sticks and Stones

With less distraction from the plant world, late autumn allows my sight to shift from an emphasis on color to an appreciation of form, so today’s walk was a meditation on the collage and sculpture installations at my feet.

It isn’t all shades of gray but the hues are mostly more subdued than in spring, summer, and early fall.I have a tendency to walk with my head down and have done this even prior to the introduction of smartphones.  I don’t usually bring my phone along on these walks because I feel that Dash and Mother Nature deserve my undivided attention (or as close to undivided as I can manage), yet I still have to make effort to keep my eyes moving. 
There’s something mesmerizing about watching water flow over stones…
looking into the swirling water to what lies beneath. The quickest way for me to enter a deep meditation is to sit down next to moving water… but today I simply stood and scanned for shapes and patterns.As I prepare to begin several days of driving across the continent, I’ve been thinking about sandstone and all the textures and hoodoo forms it takes in the desert southwest.

I’m looking forward to discovering whether this familiar but new-to-me-again landscape will deepen my practice.

[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: downing.amanda, James St. John, Carol VanHook, Shaun Bascara, Alex Critch, 松林 L, and Jim Crotty© 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]

Golden

 

For much of the year, I would have to say yellow is my least favorite color. I don’t actively dislike this lemony hue… it’s just that I find most of the others more appealing.

But in autumn, yellow really comes into its own, beaming back all that hoarded sunshine.

The mercury has been on a fall roller-coaster ride here in southwest Virginia, and the leaves have been slow to reach peak. This week, I’m especially taken by amber leaves with the memory of bright lime green still visible. When I take the time to pay attention, I see so many variations of this leafy golden light… saffron, mustard, butter, honey, canary…

No wonder I feel I’ve caught some rays during my daily walks, even when the sky is gray!

[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Henner Zeller, Liz West, Philip BouchardJeff, Robert Easton, and Aurelio Asiain© 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]

The Lovely Bones

Even as mercury huddles near the bottom of a thermometer, nature continues to offer a wealth of visual beauty. One of my favorite things about November is that I get to see the forest architecture — the timber scaffolding, if you will.

Minimalistic branches…

a tight-knit congregation of trunks and limbs…

delicate twigs…they all reminded me that stark simplicity can be stunning and calming at the same time.

The day may be dry or dripping, the light bright or diffuse, the location remote or bustling… it doesn’t matter.  If I keep my eyes open the beauty of bare trees is mine to enjoy. I just have to remember to notice.Soon I’ll be heading west to New Mexico to visit friends over the holidays. Dash and I will be taking daily walks there, too, and some hikes through the Santa Fe National Forest. I’m looking forward to seeing groves of bone-white aspens with their dark, observant eyes— I’ve missed these tree-friends, too.

[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Mirai Takahashibarnimages.comPeter Nyren, Carlo Scherer, Horizon2035, and doug ellis© 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]

Bittersweet

I’m visiting my hometown of St. Louis this week, and the trip is bittersweet.

It’s a beautiful time of year here in the heart of the Midwest. I’m having a chance to reconnect with a childhood friend, visit favorite places, and discover what has changed since I moved away about 18 months ago.

But I also lost a first cousin earlier this month, which was a shock to everyone because he had appeared to be in great health. Being back home brings up lots of memories of him and other family members who are gone.

I know there are plenty of people who find autumn sad and depressing… summer’s long, verdant days and warm nights, barbecues and baseball games, fireworks and theme parks have had their day in the sun, and the days are shorter and darker now.

It’s been a difficult year for so many people. Even though I count myself as extraordinarily lucky, it can still be hard to wake up to yet another natural or manmade disaster and not lose sight of the positive.

But I’ve always loved this season, with its colorful trees glowing under cobalt blue or slate gray skies, frosty-crisp air, wood smoke, and long shadows. I find the cycle of seasons comforting… a progression, not an end.

Walking through familiar neighborhoods or in a beloved city park or the well-tended botanical garden, I found plenty of evidence that the world is both solemn and radiantly beautiful.

 

Share your thoughts, observations, and images of bittersweet autumn in the comments section below!

[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Stanley Zimny, dustinphillips,Bhanu Tadinada, Thomas Hawk, Tom Bastin, and Thomas Hawk© 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]