Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumnal Beauty

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." - Albert Camus

Fall is solidly upon us. With the lovely crisp autumn weather comes an abundance of publicity for the rapidly changing colors of the leaves. No doubt you've seen that Camus quote on countless facebook posts and instagram photos in the last few days. If you haven't, you surely will.

I love autumn leaves as much as the next guy. In fact, I might go so far as to say that I enjoy them a lot more than a lot of the next guys. But at what expense do these leaves gain their notoriety? As we focus so intently on the leaves, do we not blind ourselves to other aspects of nature's beauty? Now I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just the way we humans work. When we focus on one thing we can't help but neglect another. Kenneth Burke would agree with me, and in fact in his book Permanence and Change he made a similar point when he asserted that “a way of seeing is also a way of not seeing – a focus upon object A involves a neglect of object B” (49). So maybe we can't help but ignore other beautiful things when all we seem to see are the changing leaves.

Now don't get me wrong here, let me repeat that I love the autumn leaves. They're beautiful. They bring joy to the soul and peace to heart. They're the flag bearers of nature's final celebration before the world shuts it down for a few months. (Curse you Persephone and your weakness for pomegranate.) In fact, two of my favorite songs (maybe in the top 150 or so...maybe) bear the title, "Autumn Leaves."

First off, the inimitable Eva Cassidy:

Secondly, Cannonball Adderly feat. Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Hank Jones and Sam Jones:

Again, I want to make sure that it's absolutely clear that I don't hate the changing leaves. My feelings are so different. In fact, they are quite the opposite.

But like I started off saying before I was interrupted by the perceived need to establish and reaffirm my affinity for the leaves, our rampant love affair with the changing leaves comes at a price. Namely, we don't recognize the beauty of the flowers of fall.

Now I hear your complaints and acknowledge their validity. Yes, it's true, flowers do get all the glory and publicity in the spring and summer. And maybe you're right, maybe it would be only fair to let the leaves have the fall and leave it at that. But I don't like that. I don't like putting a limit on the amount or provenance of the beauty we can enjoy. I say that we should be willing to open our eyes to any and all beauty as it presents itself too us, from whatever source, and that we should do so year round. Not only should we recognize flowers in the fall, but we should recognize and celebrate the beauty of the leaves during spring and summer (heaven knows their ever-present greenness is a welcome relief after living the winter months among nothing but literal shades of grey).

These thoughts began swirling around my head on Sunday night as I was out for my evening constitutional making my way down this lovely path...

...that runs parallel to the railroad tracks near my apartment. As I was thinking whatever thoughts one might think on such an outing, I began to notice wildflowers growing all along the side of the path. I stopped thinking my thoughts and focused on the flowers. 

And boy howdy am I glad I did.

And so I've decided that here on the illustrious pages of yo mama llama I will give these autumn flowers the recognition and acknowledgement they so understatedly deserve. In truth, the beauty of the scene was really an experience far beyond my poor power to capture with just the camera on my phone, but the following photos provide at least a small taste of the splendor of my Sunday evening walk. 

Now clearly these aren't the most vibrant flowers around, especially when compared with their spring and summer counterparts. But when paired with with the subtly morose charm of an overcast sky and a bit of chill in the air, these flowers seemed, to me, perfect.

The sky grew dark and as I turned off the path and headed for home, I was presented with this sight:

Which led me to conclude, once again, that sweet mother, Indiana is beautiful.

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