Autumnal Equinox


You can’t feel the cold stiff gale requiring me to wear a vest for the first time, and the changing angle of the sun is not obvious.  Even the pictures do not tell the whole story, since they don’t give a full view of the scene.  But for those who look, the clues are obvious.

We don’t usually get the full effect of seasonal change for another four or five weeks _ it often arrives ferociously around Halloween.  But the grasses shown here, certainly know.  The people, in their own way, by letting the yard go to seed also provide clues.  The changing colors, the dry leaves on the ground, the sparseness of the foliage in the trees, all agree with the solar calendar.

Directly along the shoreline spectacular fall colors generally do not happen.  The oceanic water refreshed on each tide moderates the air temperature too much.  Mostly the tree and bush leaves just turn brown and blow off in one of the first northern gales.

You need to go a little inland, not much, maybe a mile, to get some real reds and yellows.  Even on the harbor. though, if you get up a few dozen feet from the water _ as in this shot along a bluff property _ you can get a little action.  Yet, for the most part, all that will really become noticeable is the drying out. 


Not all the color comes from leaves, nor all the indications of fall from any color at all.  There are many fruits and seeds ripening in various shades, and for the more knowledgeable the autumn annuals like goldenrod and aster have arrived in all their glory.  Many of the lush grasses are turning brown and stiff, many of the early flowers are stiff and grim skeletons.

The important key is that there can be celebration in each day.  I always loved a place with actual seasons because for me the transience of each moment is reinforced by the certain knowledge that soon it will be gone for another year.  When these fruits fall, there will be no others until next equinox.  That is both discouraging and a source of constant wonder.

Spartina becomes a beautiful orange-brown, starting at the tops and working down, as the seeds ripen and fall into the bay.  These sheets of grass make wonderful frames for the water, of course, but also provide a rich habitat for the wildlife that remains, including innumerable hermit crabs.  Unfortunately, for many reasons, many of its vast beds are dying back over the last few decades, after being viciously destroyed in previous centuries.

In any case, current predictions claim this will all be underwater in another few decades, and hopefully spartina will have enough time to drift its seeds to sprout where lawns are now.  I will never know, except in imagination,  so I just enjoy this day before the seas rise.



Poison ivy is so pretty in all seasons that it’s almost a shame we react to it so strongly.  Apparently, however, its seeds are good food for wildlife, who don’t share our difficulty.  In the early fall, in particular, the vines turn spectacular shades of red, orange, and yellow, while some of the lower leaves retain their lush glossy green.
There may be some moral here about looks being deceiving, but of course in terms of pure visual interest looks are just looks.  Sometimes our culture tries too hard to find meanings and hidden metaphors in what should simply be taken for granted and enjoyed for the beauties given, and the value to the environment.


Most of the year, Montauk daisies are a clump of nondescript dark green, impenetrable to any other flowers or weeds.  In the fall, they come into their glory and bloom in their native element, along the beaches and on the dunes.  The wild goldenrod adds a nice touch.

In today’s hurried electronic times I tended to rush by these sights on my way to work or leisure or just wrapped up in my own cares.  Nature is too vast.  I would glance at it, say, ah, I have seen that, and quickly move on.  Now I have the time, and there are miracles of beauty everywhere.  Even consciously taking the extra time, however, I fear I still rush by much too fast.


No composition, no artistic merit, but you get the idea.  The prickly hedge is going orange, the bay is in the background.  It’s an open question how much snapshots should bother trying to have some kind of formal architecture anyway.  In fact, the whole field of photography seems pretty wide open, since what seemed correct and proper and striking generations ago has faded into formal dullness, and the various crude shots which were dismissed at the time are recognized as masterpieces recording time and place.

The Romans used to say “life is short but art is long.”  That may be, but the appreciation of art, the evaluation of art, is faddish and fickle and usually even shorter than life itself.

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