Brown Harmonies

Mon –

Whistler painted a series of works he called “Nocturnes,” using muted restricted colors.  Nature in the fall and winter does the same thing, reducing the full range of colors to produce equally subtle masterpieces.  What is left, after a while, are only the infinitely varied shades of brown of vegetation, and the striking blues of the sky and its reflection in water.

We are used to spectacular displays in art, so most of the photographs of the season skip right from the dramatic brilliant foliage of early fall to the harsh crispness of deep cold and snow.  But the world doesn’t work that way.  Shifts are often subtle and less theatrical, but deeply dramatic nevertheless.

Brown shades vary tremendously but _ well _ they are all still brown.  Kind of like our individual personalities, I guess.  The boats have thinned out a good deal, all being put up safe on land.  Soon the harbor crews will be going around to pick up the buoys.

The last of the green in the spartina will fade soon, but otherwise it remains almost the same until ice in the harbor flattens it and breaks off some of the blades, to wash up on the various beaches for cleanup in the spring.  My particular joy in this time of year is that I get such scenes almost entirely to myself, either because they are at work or because they haven’t learned to discover the beauty of bundling up and spending time with colder nature.

Seasons help us see the familiar as strange.  This is a trait we should always cultivate.  There is little more rewarding than a fresh eye, which makes the common world ever wondrous.

So this is just a driveway at Coindre Hall, caught between Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Nothing special, and yet very special; just a moment in time and yet portending bit changes.  Not a whole lot of brown here, I guess, but I always regard yellow and dark red as honorary browns anyway.

The first snow lightens the dark sky, as the trees rapidly darken with each colder night.  Many of them by now have been stripped of foliage anyway.  It’s always surprising how quickly this all plays out, after what seems an endlessly long interim period of green and gradual coloration.

Dark and pensive folks will relate the story of the grasshopper and the ant, neglecting the inconvenient fact that the grasshopper dies sooner and more certainly.  The sad truth is that if you have saved all summer to have a picnic on this lawn today you need to dress warmly, and come with a different set of aesthetic expectations.

Last rose of summer, eh?  Maybe a novel in that somewhere, if I could just find the appropriate vampires, adolescents, or mad artists hanging around.  Anyway, since it actually exists it is not an anomaly, and the ragged trees on the opposite shore show how late the year is growing.

In not much more than a week the muted and varied shades of brown have darkened and lost most of their glow.  There are also a lot less of them up there, which means the ones that remain are even more susceptible to the wind gusts frequently spilling in from Canada.  Nature is a constant pageant, although whether we consider it a tragedy, comedy, or ongoing adventure series is pretty much up to us.

Ducks presumably happily floating on the Coindre Hall pond.  You couldn’t have a more traditional mid fall picture if you composed all the elements in a studio.  Soon enough this may be ice covered and certainly the area in the back will be nothing but dull brown branches _ but that is a wholly different and equally beautiful aesthetic.

One of the nice things, at least when you’re retired as I am, is that the onset of poorer weather means the exit of fair-weather crowds.  The people taking their dogs out, for example, falls off dramatically with wind and temperature, and tends to jam into a few hours on the weekends when it is more a duty than a pleasure.  I’m a crotchety old gent and selfishly enjoy having the loveliness to myself.

This neighborhood used to be a summer colony, back in the 1920’s, where the not quite rich would come to rub elbows with the wealthy of the gold coast.  Glen Na Little trail is a remnant of that time, although many of the tiny bungalows have been winterized and expanded or torn down.

Water is not required for there to be beauty.  In some ways, water is a bit too easy.  One of the great things about the modern digital era is that so many people have opened their eyes and constantly practice seeing their environment, if only to have something to send to friends every few minutes.



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