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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 6 Outdoors: Winter Colors Near Farmhouse

Tuesday, February 7, 3:00-3:50 p.m.

Sunshine and no clouds, bright blue sky, but many other colors are to be seen, also, just a few steps from the front door of our old farmhouse. (An injured ankle keeps me from venturing farther afield.) Most striking are the bright yellow branches of the giant willows along the little no-name creek, vivid against the blue of the sky, and on the ground, red osiers (dogwood) along the creek, brilliant scarlet. Off to the north and south in the distance are cherry orchards, the southern orchard trees a silvery lavender, those to the north a rich, deep plum color.

(At this time of year, each orchard has its own color tone: there are apple trees over on Jelinek Road whose trunks and branches are intense orange-gold.)

Various greens are visible, beginning with that of grass. Not all the grass is brown, and some patches are greener than others. Along the walk, one sage plant is a dusky grey-green (the other, a purple sage, dark and almost colorless now in winter), while nearby rosemary, not winter-killed this unseasonably warm year, is a brighter, still-subtle green.

Iris leaves in the garden are tawny yellow-brown, tall grasses at the edge of the yard tawny gold, and dangling clusters of box-elder seeds a sun-kissed warm beige. One tiny down feather is caught on a twig of the little plum tree and flutters nervously in the breeze. On closer inspection it seems to be two small, partial, finely veined feathers, tips clipped off, barely held together by a small clot of flesh, perhaps the last remaining trace of a larger bird’s meal. The outer twigs and buds of the little plum tree are red-orange; those of the big silver maple brighter red, though not the showy scarlet of the osiers.

Many colors are the antithesis of ‘showy.’ Browns and greys come in a near-infinite number of variations, the greys shading into greens where microorganisms inhabit tree bark. The silver maple crowding the front of the farmhouse is an example of this subtlety. Pieces of outer bark, on a deeply ridged old trunk, curling away from the tree, are dark grey and bear numerous grey-green lichens; the revealed underbark is pinkish brown, appearing much younger.

The sun casts the shadow of the porch on the old house foundation and stripes the trunk of the tree with shadows of branches. More ground is bare (warm brown) than is snow-covered.

Full moon tonight.


Dawn said...

So many colors...are there more this year than other years due to the lack of snow? Or were these colors always there but we just didn't notice them?

Hope the ankle is better soon. And wasn't that moon wonderful last night?

P. J. Grath said...

Coincidentally, another friend sent me an e-mail today about colors he was noticing outdoors. Or maybe it's more than coincidence. Certainly, if we had a heavy snow cover, much of the landscape would be covered with snow, though orchard trees and willow branches would show, and if we were having our usual cloud-covered skies and snow-filled air instead of sunshine and blue sky our northern world seem much more monochromatic. Color is dependent on light. Noticing? Dependent on paying attention, on looking? And on what is there to be noticed and seen!