Autumn Trilogy II – A Closer Reading

 No
vibrant
colors here,
no surging crowds,
no disappointed
seekers after glory
on a sweet autumnal day.
 These woods reward a heart compelled
 to open bark-rough covers: resting,
 reading autumn’s book leaf by shadowed leaf.

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment, please click below.
For more information on the Etheree, a syllabic poem that, in its basic form, contains ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, please click HERE.
The photo, taken in October of 2011, shows wooden steps leading to an observation platform at the Mississippi Palisades in Illinois. You can click HERE to see the view from the platform.
Autumn Trilogy I ~ Reflected Light

80 thoughts on “Autumn Trilogy II – A Closer Reading

    1. Thanks, Kayti. Autumn’s a fine season even without the splashy colors.

      I was delighted to find the oak leaf shadows on the steps. My assumption is that the tannic acid in them etched the wood. Sometimes it pays to look down.

      Linda

    1. In “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard talks about the difference between setting and stalking. She’s more directly concerned with critters like the muskrat in that context, but I’m quite sure she realized the same dynamic applies elsewhere. I’ve never been able to stalk and capture an etheree, but if I just wait long enough, one wanders by and voila! I capture it.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. One more reason to treasure real books — Kindles don’t have leaves.

      Linda

    1. Actually, Georgette, the words found me. But more about that later. The pairing of photo and words is a wonderful testament to the value of hanging on to every photo that appeals. You never know how it might be used.. I can’t believe I’ve had this one for a full three years. I took it on the trip downriver, after carrying my mom’s ashes up to Iowa for burial.

      Linda

        1. No, I was driving alongside. In this case, downriver’s used in its directional, metaphorical sense.Upriver, downriver, upcountry, and so on are pretty common here. “Over yonder” and “a far piece” belong in that family of directions, too, but they’re not quite as specific.

    1. Thanks, Bella Rum. I hope things still are as lovely there as you’ve reported. If it is, it ought to be about time for another of your day trips — once the skeletons are hung, of course.

      Linda

    1. You’re exactly right, DM. There is one more — although it’s a bit different than the last two. Variety is the spice of life, and all that. I wouldn’t want you to be bored, after all!

      Linda

    1. Thanks so much, Ellen. Of course you know the genesis of this one. There will be another post about all that. So many people express interest in “where poems come from,” but it’s rare to have the conception time-stamped!

      A blessed day to you.

      Linda

  1. Oh yes, there is such comfort if one will stop long enough to embrace it! Great image and great design of words. I was there from first word to last and basked in this soothing balm for the soul..

    The visit has been intense, and yesterday my normal pulse of 50-something was mia and replaced by one double that number. I’ve not been getting my daily dose of calm… like what’s above in this post!

    in ten or so minutes, the day will resume in full-throttle mode! z

    1. Hmmm…. Does this explain why your pumpkins were wearing such grimaces? They looked like they could use a little time-out, too! Very seasonally appropriate and no doubt fun to make, but my goodness — they’re the very image of what we looked like as kids when the Big People would tell us to stop wiggling and stop “pulling faces.”

      The weather’s gorgeous here, now. I hope your weekend’s a delight, and that the pace eases a bit. Soon enough you’ll be back at the river, telling stories about how manic it is here in the States, and how we all should learn to slow down and take life as it comes — one leaf at a time!

      Linda

      1. ha! you made me laugh several times! I’m writing from a hotel room, where I took a timeout for Lisa. Tomorrow I’ll resume the assault to my senses! My bp is higher and my pulse is double the norm! It’s time to be hurled back to the briar patch!

        A squall line rolled thru arkansas last night and sent folks diving for cover. By morning all was clear.

        next week: natchez… z

    1. Jennifer, how nice of you to stop by. I’m delighted that you’ll be highlighting Etherees in the 2015 challenge. (How can we be talking about 2015 already?) I’ve bookmarked the site, and will try to remember to visit and see what’s happening. I certainly will contribute — thank you for the invitation.

      The site looks so interesting. It was my first exposure to Cinepoems; they’re very creative. And I smiled to see the interview with Charlotte Digregorio. That’s not a common name here in Texas, but decades ago, when I was in college and working at a farm equipment company, one of their sales reps from Illinois was named Digregorio. We called him “Digger,” and he was one of the funniest, most sociable people in the world. Lots of memories there!

      Linda

    1. Isn’t this weather splendid, Phil? A whole lot of things have been put on The List for Later. This is a weekend for being outdoors — somewhere. I don’t know where, yet, and may not until I head out. All I know is it won’t include Galveston or anything close. The crowds and traffic will be tremendous.

      I looked at the art pieces for the MFAH contest. Not much inspiring there, so I think I’ll pass. Besides, I’ve got such a pile of things I want to write about, any time I have I want to devote to them.

      Your mention of rubbings made me think about gravestone rubbings. Lo and behold, in many states, it’s now illegal. As far as I know, it’s still legal to make rubbings of leaves, but you might check the statutes before giving it a try.

      Linda

      1. Leaf it to you to notice creeping regulations. Don’t try to go up 45N – big overpass construction has it shut down just past Woodlands…just in time for the Cowboys game in Dallas and the fair….
        It is the best time to travel. Can’t wait to follow your trail

        1. No, it’s more a concern for the stones themselves. Apparently there are places were the more unusual stones have been damaged by too many people eager to make rubbings. And, there have been concerns that not everyone is as respectful of graveyards as they might be.

  2. No leaf-peepers in Texas, I guess Linda. But I do remember brilliantly colored cottonwoods one Christmas when Peggy and I were camped out in Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande. It was worthy of leaf peeper glory. :) –Curt

    1. Au contraire, Curt! There is a leaf-peeper destination in Texas, called Lost Maples State Natural Area. Somehow, the area came to support wonderful bigtooth maples, and the color in a good autumn can be gorgeous, particularly mixed with the oaks, sycamores, walnut and other trees. It’s a great hiking destination, and people make pilgrimage every year.

      It’s also a place that accomodates only 250 cars, to keep the number of people somewhat limited. On weekends, the line to get into the place can stretch for miles. A mid-week trip is much better, and I intend to make one this year.

      The cottonwoods can be lovely. And we have sumac, goldenrod, asters, and cypress for additional (if more subtle) color. Even in the less spectacular parts of the country, it’s a fine season.

      Linda

      1. I should have known that Texas has it all, Linda. :) Actually, the year Peggy and I were at Big Bend we had started our fall in August in Alaska and gradually worked our way south, east, and south again. We enjoyed autumn colors in Alaska, Canada, around the Great Lakes, up into New England, down the mid-Alantic states, over the Blue Ridge Highway to the Great Smokies and eventually to Texas. We had five months of fall! –Curt

        1. What a great suggestion. For whatever reason, I never think of far west Texas, the Davis or the Guadalupe Mountains. I’ve never been there, either, though I’ve driven that stretch of I-10 on my way to Carlsbad and etc. I suspect the crowds aren’t as dense as around Lost Maples in the height of the season.

          1. Far fewer people visit McKittrick Canyon than Lost Maples, which you no doubt know can be a madhouse when the fall color is up. The disadvantage is that it takes hours longer to get to the Guadalupe Mountains.

  3. What a gorgeous view, Linda! Must have been taken along the Mississippi River??

    I’m impressed with this poem, too. It goes to show how everything has beauty if we’ll just SEE. Isn’t it odd how a predominately black and white shot can sometimes convey much more than one in full color?

    I love how these leaves look like brass rubbings. We used to do something like this when I was a school kid (coincidentally, this often involved leaves and Autumn, if memory serves me correctly!)

    What a good choice for National Poetry Day!!

    1. It was along the Mississippi, Debbie. The Mississippi Palisades are just outside Savanna, Illinois. On their webpage, there’s a map about halfway down that makes clear where the photo was taken. I was shooting south, of course, and you can clearly pick out on the map the islands that are shown in the photo.

      It was interesting to find those steps, and the leaf. In a sense, this was a full color shot — it’s just that the colors were quite different than those we usually associate with autumn. It was quite a lesson for me. Why even think about looking at some old wooden steps? As usual, the answer is: you never know what you’ll find.

      You’re the second to mention leaf rubbings. We did them too, but more often we sealed pretty leaves by ironing them between sheets of waxed paper. I was telling someone about that, and she was aghast that we would run an iron over waxed paper. When I told her we used to do that regularly to “slick up” the faceplate of the iron, she nearly died. She didn’t realize that Teflon hasn’t been around since the 1800s!

      Linda

  4. As someone who is often overwhelmed with so many colorful autumn leaves that I cannot decide where to look, I enjoy your call to read the leaves as pages in a book. Such a great idea.
    Your photograph is so unique as well…at least I have not seen another like it. Quite nice, Linda, on all counts.

    1. It’s true. You have an embarassment of riches during this time of year, Steve. We try not to be too envious of you!

      Did you happen to look at the link to the photo taken from the platform where I found the leaf shadow? When you posted your photo with the flower stem in the corner, and that discussion was going on, I hardly could contain myself. I already had this post ready to go, and in processing the photo, I purposely had cropped it to put the railroad track in the lower right corner, with the curve bisecting the photo diagonally. I think I would have done it just the same way, even if I’d known the rule.

      I’m so glad you liked the pairing of words and photo. I’ve always liked that photo a lot, and I’m glad that, after three years, I found some words to go with it.

      Linda

      1. Yes. It is a great view from there and there is even some foliage, although not unexpected coming from Illinois. As far as the placement, well as we’ve discussed, rules are to be broken and coming from the corner works well in the image. Nitpicking, we could actually make a case that it is just above the corner and, therefore, not breaking a rule. :-)
        I do like the image, repeating myself but I am sure you do not mind, and the leaf makes me think of a fossil or maybe nature’s decoupage.

    1. Happy weekend, Dana. And happy poem, too. What’s that old saying? “Veni, Vidi, Readi?” I did go and read, and I really liked your take on the season — especially that sullen stare at the coat closet.

      I’m glad you liked this one. I’m fond of it myself. Not only that, I can peg the very moment it was conceived, and will have a little more to say about that, later.

      Linda

  5. The ghost of a leaf, long departed. We tend to think of Autumn all too often in the broad sweep of the landscape. But the true beauty is, to my mind, often found in the detail. The subdued tones combined with that lovely poem are so evocative of a season that drifts into the monochrome of winter. Beautiful, Linda

    1. Thank you, Andy. I’m as taken by the process that led to the leaf’s imprint as I am by the image itself. To some slight degree, it’s analogous to the developing of photographic film. It required time, stability, and the leaching of chemicals by the rain “bath” to leave the impression on the wood.

      We love the sunlight, but only a rain-soaked leaf, held in place for who knows how long, could have left an echo of its life for us to admire.

      Linda

  6. I don’t think I was logged into wordpress when I left my other comment — and now I’ll never be so eloquent. But I do love your etheree — you do this so well. There is something so enigmatic about the skeleton leaves. I just bought some art paper yesterday with them embedded. It is hauntingly beautiful. I love this one.

    1. When I was a kid, I never understood how leaves could become so fragile — nearly disappearing, except for their veining. When I think about it now, I see a resemblance between that kind of leaf and fan coral — as much space as substance. Even green, lacy leaves are beautiful.

      I can see you using those papers in your journals. I like to think of you working on fall projects at the lake, even though I know it’s closed up now. It seems too early, but of course a thousand miles makes a big difference in when the season turns. We’ll just have to look forward to the pleasures to come.

      Linda

  7. Linda, I love the unexpected treasure of, not the leaf, but the leaf shadow. I try to remember to look for reflections and shadows — funny how easy they are to overlook, but they offer another view, often quite beautiful. You captured a wonderful one. Looking forward to the third part of your autumn trilogy.

    1. Rosemary, the best leaf shadows — at least, the most compelling I’ve ever seen — were associated with a solar eclipse. It wasn’t total, but it was substantial. It was in the 80s, and I was in Houston. All I remember are the “double” shadows. It was remarkable, and I can see it as clearly as if I had a photo in front of me. Perhaps I see it even more clearly. In any event, even something as insubstantial as a shadow can take on life, and endure — sometimes longer than we imagine.

      Linda

  8. Stirring Etheree, and I can’t help but wonder if the use of ‘closer reading’ was inspired by some of our discussions and research about ‘close reading” in the Common Core ELA materials.

    Carry on in this gorgeous fall weather! At least, it is here. There, also? (I love the photo, too!)

    1. Actually, BW, I didn’t think of the relationship to “that kind” of closer reading until after I’d chosen the title. But it’s there: no doubt about that. What I was thinking of was the common autumn dialogue. You know, the one that goes: “Let’s go look at the leaves.” “Ok, great idea.” And then, everyone hops in the car, drives a couple of hundred miles, and says either, “Great color!” or, “Well, this wasn’t a very good year.”

      And yes, it is gorgeous.I could do with fewer mosquitos, but that’s small stuff compared to cool, breezy and sunny. And the fish! The mullet are thick, and whatever’s been chasing them the past few nights probably would be worth catching.

      Linda

    1. My gosh, Yvonne. They kept muttering here about real storms coming late in the week, but nothing showed up. It sounds like you got what we didn’t. I’ve read reports from Alabama and Mississippi bloggers about bad weather; I hope loss of power was the worst of it for you.

      Glad you liked the poem & photo.I hope things settle down and you get a little time for outdoor enjoyment yourself.

      Linda

  9. Your post reminded me of the poem “Spring & Fall (to a young child)” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

    Márargét, áre you gríeving
    Over Goldengrove unleaving?
    Leáves, líke the things of man, you
    With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
    Áh! ás the heart grows older
    It will come to such sights colder
    By and by, nor spare a sigh
    Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
    And yet you wíll weep and know why.
    Now no matter, child, the name:
    Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
    Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
    What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
    It ís the blight man was born for,
    It is Margaret you mourn for.

    1. Now, this bit of serendipity makes me smile. Hopkins’ wonderful poem lies at the very heart of “Autumn Trilogy III,” already written and awaiting its turn in the rotation. You just got there before I did. That’s all right. Reading it twice or thrice — or more — isn’t going to hurt anyone.

  10. I like the last line: “reading Autumn’s book leaf by shadowed leaf.” Whenever Fall arrives and poetry comes round to the changing seasons or holding on to spring.then I think of Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold can Stay”

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

    So beautiful and as inevitable as sunrise and moonrise.

    Sometimes I think ‘leaf’ is as compelling as ‘ocean’ as both seem to pull at forces of nature which we romantically internalize.

    1. I’m so glad you reminded me of that Frost verse, Judy. I love it, and it seems to have exactly the right touch of melancholy, both for autumn and for life. Wanting “gold to stay” is one of the most natural human tendencies, and it’s one we start learning to deal with early, if we’re lucky or blessed.

      As for “leaf” being compelling, think of all the ways the word or its derivatives are used in our language: book leaves, leave-taking, “leafing through” scrapbooks or memories, gold and silver leafing, the expression “by your leave,” and on and on.

      Why, there even was a time when I was entranced by that great Nordic explorer — Leaf Erikson! Young me thought “Leaf” was a nickname he’d gotten because his boat was shaped like one. I had to get that un-internalized.

      Linda

  11. What a lovely photo, and how nice to hold together the tasks of reading texts and reading the wood. I tell my students that the way we handle a book and the way we deal with people are not unrelated. Reading is, it seems to me, an ethical act – in a fashion. You help me to remember, too, that it is an aesthetic act.

    1. It’s true, Allen. The very act of reading is quite different when done from a book than when done with a “device.”

      The aesthetics play a large role in my preference for books, but there are other differences. The world of electronic gadgets is a world that encourages us, however subtly, to go faster, to be more efficient. The world of the book encourages slowing down.

      And one of my readers mentioned something that surprised me by its obviousness. She pointed out that, when we’re reading a book, we know when the end is coming by the number of pages left. On an electronic device, there’s no sense of movement, no sign of the end, no physical indication to “pay attention, now — something is going to happen.”

      By completely ungrounding the work, the arc of the story is affected. Or, at the very least, our experience of the story, our involvement in it, is affected.

      To put it another way, the eternal now might be good theology, but it’s bad for story-reading. Stories live and move and have their being in beginnings, endings, and in-betweens!

      Linda

  12. What a restrained and sensitive poem you have written to perfectly compliment the photo. It’s such a joy to explore the subdued side of the season, rather than indulge in its bold and brilliant colours. A lovely post!

    1. Thank you, Mary. I’m as fond as the next person of great expanses of autumn color, but to search only for those views is to miss other seasonal delights and curiosities.

      Besides: each small detail is a necessary part of the whole. It’s only a matter of which we choose to focus on at a given time, don’t you think?

      I’m glad you enjoyed this pairing. I certainly was pleased to find the leaf-shadow.

      Linda

    1. If I’ve provided you with a bit of poetic pleasure, Friko, I’ll ask for nothing more. It certainly was worth holding on to the image for three years, waiting for some words to show up.

      Many thanks ~

      Linda

    1. I was happy to read that post again, Arti. For one thing, I’ve learned a good bit more about Werner Herzog since you wrote it, as well as writing a bit about him myself. I never did watch the documentary, but now it’s on the list for wintertime viewing.

      Just think — that artist didn’t have an agent, social media, or a publisher to help him along. He never had his work chipped out and carried to an important gallery, and may not even have had a reception at the opening of the cave. Still, the work endures. The leaf print won’t last as long. It’s probably gone now. But it was there, and it was seen. I rather like thinking of it as the handprint of autumn’s artist.

      And I’m glad you like the poem.

      Linda

    1. I thought so, too, Ida. There are treasures scattered all over the world, just like your woodpeckers and “mystery birds.” We even had clear skies for the eclipse this morning. That really was a treat.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Linda

  13. Lovely-The poem and the photo work together perfectly to tell a story. Like others who commented, I’m fascinated by the picture. I love the nuanced subtly of it.

    1. Honestly, Sheryl, I didn’t realize at first what a treasure I had when I took that photo. It was obvious enough to stop me, and interesting enough that I didn’t delete it, but I never imagined being able to “make something of it.” As I’ve mentioned, it’s a good lesson. Decluttering a house is good, cleaning out files is good — but deleting photos? Not always such a good idea!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think your Grandma would have, too.

      Linda

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