It’s a Colorful World

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.

The world looks different since I had cataract surgery. Brighter. Sharper. Cleaner. It’s as if I’d been looking through a very dirty windshield for a very long time, and someone came along and washed it clean.

And oh, the colors! Deeper, richer, more lifelike. Just in time for arrival of Lady Spring, dancing across a carpet of wildflowers in a shimmering gown that grows greener every day.

Without further ado, here is a sampling of my more colorful world.

Looking down on the bud and three bracts (not leaves) of a trillium not yet in bloom. Her Ladyship’s accent colors may be subtle or showy, but she sure doesn’t skimp on the green.  What color will this be when it blooms? Red? Pink? White? Yellow? Purple?

A violet. The name says it all.

I can see all obstacles in my way…

It’s not just seeing the obstacles. It’s the depth perception, a critical sense that had gone missing for some time.  It’s been hard to accurately judge where to put my feet, and I have a small phobia about falling.

This past weekend, we went to a nature preserve where the trail proved more challenging than we expected.

It was a narrow path that clung to the side of a steep ravine high above a creek. A thick layer of dry leaves hid the rocks and roots along the path, and made for a lot of slipping and sliding.

Not long ago, I would have been very uncomfortable, and possibly would have even turned back.

Not now. With more confidence in my vision, I really enjoyed this hike. I clambered up and down rock outcroppings like a mountain goat, and even made the numerous stream crossings easily.

Plus, there were wildflowers!

Dutchman’s breeches, one of our spring ephemerals, wildflowers that bloom in the brief time between when the snow melts and the trees leaf out.

Spring ephemerals carpet the forest floor with small splashes of color. They have a short time in which to grow, feed, bloom and set seed for the next year.

It seems Her Ladyship’s small footmen have hung their trousers out on the laundry line.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…

The last few months I’ve been in a sort of creative funk.

Winter is partially to blame for that, especially a winter of bare brown earth and trees.

Not now. I find my enthusiasm for photography is awakening as the earth awakens.

Lady Spring has arrived, and I can see her beauty!

And here it is! The aptly named spring beauty, one of our earliest wildflowers, pretty in pink.

White is a color, too.

My cataracts had turned black and white to dark gray and yellowish tan. For an amateur photographer, seeing true black and true white again is a joy. Especially when the white adorns one of Her Ladyship’s loveliest flowers.

Bloodroot gets its name, not from the creamy white petals and bright golden stamens, but from the orange-red juice in its underground rhizomes.

A trout lily nods in the shade of the forest floor.

The scent of Lady Spring’s perfume drifts on the warm air, leading my eyes to crabapple blossoms of rose and white. Oh, that sky! I don’t remember the sky being this blue…

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

What do you see?

Lyrics to “I Can See Clearly Nowby Jimmy Nash

Harvest Soup

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3977acsLady Autumn drifted through the forest on a sparkling day, leaves rustling crisply under her feet. Wrapping her cloak tightly around herself against the chill, she swept her amber eyes across the landscape, seeking spices and herbs for her harvest soup.

A main ingredient was needed. Pumpkin?161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3934acs

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3945acsButternut squash?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or perhaps…

161105_pa-glen-providence-park-fall_4423acsCantaloupe?

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_4087acsAh, a pinch of saffron.

161110_pa-home-fall_5165acsSome cinnamon and nutmeg.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_4046acsRusset potatoes, finally chopped to give the broth some heft.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3883acsAnd mushrooms. Always mushrooms.

Already her imagination conjured the aroma of bubbling broth, hearty and savory, laced with the essence of wood smoke.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_4150acsA zest of lemon would do nicely, she thought.

Even a little lime.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3962acsNuts would have been a nice touch. Alas, one of Her Ladyship’s small footmen had found these acorns first. A field mouse, a chipmunk, or perhaps a gray squirrel had taken them for his larder.

Lady Autumn didn’t mind. She would not begrudge her creatures a tasty and nutritious morsel when they have need of such sustenance.

161103_pa-crec-fall_4365acsA splash of claret.

A good soup tastes better with wine, Her Ladyship knew.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3973acsA sprinkle of sage…

161105_pa-glen-providence-park-fall_4384acsGinger…

161110_pa-home-fall_5172acsAnd a generous dash of paprika to top it off.

161103_pa-crec-fall_4233acsLady Autumn walked through the forest on a golden afternoon, gathering the seasonings for a fine harvest soup.

161102_pa-ridley-creek-fall_3849acsWhat do you think it will taste like?

At the Top of the World

The Winter Queen is imperious and aloof, demanding and notoriously fickle. This year she opted to remain far to the north, leaving us in the gentle arms of Lady Autumn until late in January. Then Her Majesty swept in on howling winds of ice, and buried us in feet of snow.

She is beautiful, and her passage leaves a photographer is eager to get outside to admire the winter wonderland. But first her demands must be met: two days of shoveling, and the passage of enough time for the roads to clear.

Many are the photos I have of the lowlands wreathed in snow: Heinz Refuge, Valley Forge, Ridley Creek. Lacking are any images of snowy scenes from on high. Nearly a week after the blizzard, I set forth on a journey to visit the Winter Queen in her mountain fastness.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8336acsCardinals kept me company as I hiked up the narrow channel of compacted snow where others had walked before me. The soft sigh of the wind in the trees whispered above the rhythm of the wet crunch of my footfalls and squishy creak of my trekking poles.

I wondered what I would find when I reached the Pinnacle. How would the Susquehanna River below be dressed? Open dark water? Or would it be garbed in Her Majesty’s mantle of white?

The wind quickened as I neared the Pinnacle. The first glimpse through the trees made me gasp.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8339acsMy heart soared and I hurried to the overlook.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8355aYes! The Winter Queen has indeed been here!

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8453acsThe evidence of her frigid touch is everywhere, frosting the hills rising above the river…

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8461acs…and tracing the surface of the ice in intricate swirls and waves.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8373acsOn previous visits to the Holtwood Gorge Pinnacle, we discovered a wondrous place just down the trail.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8376acsIt’s a place where pine trees and rhodendrons stand guard over a garden of rocks.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8385aIn dry weather, it is a fun boulder scramble to the farthest of the rocks to look straight down to the water. When the Winter Queen is in residence, it requires much more caution. I clambered carefully down the rocks, often on my butt, very tentative when on my feet. Sometimes my foot plunged through the snow to my knee.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8393acsThere was the point beyond which I would not go. The Winter Queen cares nothing for the safety of her admirers.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8383acsBut, oh, what there was to admire! I sat on a dry boulder for a long time, soaking in the sights and sounds of the Gorge in snow. The wind howled through the trees, a whisper no longer. I felt it stinging my face, as the cold seeped into my legs from the rough rock below me.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8419acsBoulders loomed above me, their surfaces braided in stripes of dark grey, white and rust, dusted with lichens and puddles of snow. Three Bald Eagles circled past, and a kettle of Turkey Vultures.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8427aA flock of Robins passed through, flitting noisily through the shrubs. Did the Winter Queen take offense at the cheery presence of these harbingers of spring in her frozen domain?

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8448acsSlowly I made my way back up the boulders.

The climb was tricky; I had learned the hard way not to trust that there would be solid ground beneath every patch of snow.

I used my hands and knees more than my feet.

Walking the trail was easier.

160129_PA Holtwood Pinnacle Snow_8478acsAt the top, I turned once again to drink in the wonder of the Her Majesty’s creation, the pearly white ribbon winding through dark hills and twisting out of sight.

As if to remind me of the Winter Queen’s capricious temperament, when I reached my car, it began to snow.

In Lady Autumn’s Mirror

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9367acsThe Harvest Ball approaches, and Her Ladyship has dressed in her finest. Bedecked and bejeweled, she admires herself in the mirror.

What does she see there?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall Pinnacle_0493acsAdventure?

151104_PA HNWR Fall Evening_1852acsFellowship?

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9461acsWhat does Lady Autumn see when she looks in her mirror?

151026_PA Beltzville Fall_0699acsElegance?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall_0229acsRadiance?

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak mc_2996 acsWhat does Lady Autumn see when she looks in her mirror?

151104_PA HNWR Fall Evening _6922acsHarmony?

151026_PA Beltzville Fall_0807aExuberance?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall Pinnacle_0608acsMajesty?

What does Lady Autumn see when she looks in her mirror?

151025_PA Holtwood Fall_0221acsSerenity.

Unexpected Color

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9318acsIt was too early for fall foliage yet, not in this neck of the woods, and these were the wrong woods, for that matter. The Pine Barrens are made up of pines, for gosh sakes.

Pines are evergreens, they don’t come in any color but green.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_8953a2csYet there we were in the Pine Barrens, admiring Lady Autumn’s jewelry, the subtle red and gold gems sprinkled amongst the green. Atsion Lake (top) and Whitesbog (above).

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9302acsSapphire skies over Atsion Lake.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak mc_2964acsAutumn reflections where the Mullica River meets Atsion Lake. While pitch pine and Atlantic white cedar trees are the predominant conifers in the Pinelands, deciduous oaks like black jack, post and scarlet oak are common, as are shrubs like blueberry and huckleberry in the low heath layer.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9360acsThe Mullica River, looking upstream.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9345acsI am quite sure that some of Lady Autumn’s aquatic attendants reside in this wooden cave.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9472acsI am quite sure that I could quite contentedly reside in this wooden abode.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_9019ac copyNot much color in this particular photo, at least not the kind we were hoping for. This is a cranberry bog at Whitesbog. New Jersey is one the top producers of cranberries in the country, and they are grown in the rich wet environment of the Pine Barrens. When the time is right, the fields are flooded; the cranberries float to the top to be harvested.

Acres of cranberries like a vast sea of crimson; that’s what we were looking for. We were too early.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_8998acs copyThe cranberries were still on the bushes!

151021_Bladderwort at Harrisville Pond _6888A touch of summer remained on Harrisville Pond. Scattered here and there were some lingering bladderworts. These carnivorous plants float on little pontoons. Below the surface dangle tangled masses of thin leaves, and numerous tiny bladders. The bladder is a vacuum trap. Prey such as aquatic insects and other small organisms brush against it, and the bladder sucks in both water and prey.

On Harrisville Pond, bladderworts are abundant in late summer. We were lucky to find some still in bloom in October.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9484acsSunset on Oswego Lake.

151021_NJ Harrisville Pond Kayak_6871acsHarrisville Lake bedazzles with ruby, garnet and topaz gems amongst the emeralds. Lady Autumn’s finest jewels provide some lovely and unexpected color in the Pine Barrens.

Old Man Winter

150201_PA VF Betzwood_4847acs bwThe Winter Queen, beautiful and imperious, does not always condescend to trifle with us in person. Last year we were bound in her glacial grip, locked in snow and ice for weeks at a time. This year Her Majesty’s attention has been drawn elsewhere, and she has delegated her duties here to her henchman, Old Man Winter.

150201_PA VF Betzwood_5040acs bwOld Man Winter has an artist’s fickle temperament; warm days follow cold, and snowfalls are light. Not that we escape his touch. Rivers freeze, trees shiver when he passes by. His palette is white and gray, and his brushes are the biting winds that accompany the most frigid days. See how he blows water into ice!

150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5313acs bwIslands in the stream, bearing not palm trees, but ice blocks and frozen stalactites.

150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5375acs bwIce forms, melts, then freezes again, into ever more fantastical shapes. Icicles may drape an entire cliffside in cascading curtains…

150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5369acs bwOr dress twigs in chunky nuggets like rock candy on a string.

 

150201_PA VF Betzwood_4865acs bw

150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5251acs bwOld Man Winter paints in abstractions made of seemingly random lines, textures and patterns.

Look closely at his artwork; perhaps you will see waves crashing upon the shore, doves in flight, a duck swallowing a fish…

150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5242acs bw150201_PA VF Betzwood_4896acs150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5206acd bw150201_PA VF Betzwood_4866 acs2 bw

Look! Old Man Winter is feeling frisky!150207_VFAS Mill Grove_5236acsOn a sunny day, even the old master is tempted to reach for a spot of color. In a playful mood, he blows ice bubbles in cobalt and blue.

Can Lady Spring be far away?