That Haunting Autumn Sky

willowscurlsSky Over Clouds Over Arkansas Prairie
Willow the Wisp — such a wisp of a girl —
once whispered to clouds that she longed for some curls.
The clouds came together, and on one bright night
they curled ’round her head — what a beautiful sight!


Ground fog; mountain-hugging clouds; tendrils of darkness enveloping the sunlight — all have given rise to Will-o-the-wisp legends beloved of those who dwell far, far away from the city’s constant light.

When Steve Schwartzman wrote about “Will-o-the-Wisp” on his etymology blog, “Spanish-English Word Connections”, I not only enjoyed the history, I transformed Will into Willow, and composed my little verse.  With Halloween approaching, pumpkins piling up, and leaves beginning to show a bit of color, it seems that even the sky wants to share in the autumn fun.

Comments always are welcome. Because I’m traveling, it may take a bit of time for me to respond.

91 thoughts on “That Haunting Autumn Sky

    1. My goodness. I know of Parrish, but I’ve never paid a lot of attention to his work. I just did an image search for Maxfield Parrish clouds, and was astonished by the similarity of this photo to some of those images. Thanks for mentioning his work, and expanding a different sort of horizon.

      1. They have a wall-size painting by him at the gallery in Rochester, NY which I guess I’ve seen a couple of dozen times, and liked, so your photo’s resemblance struck me as soon as I saw it. (#NY Has Lots of Good Art)

    1. Exactly so, Terry. With clouds like these, the absence of turning leaves seems a little less disappointing. But I’m in Kansas now, and am fairly well sure that the cottonwoods will be showing off their lovely yellow. We’ll see.

    1. Thanks, Steve. It certainly was inspiriting to see sumac climbing over the mima mounds at Diamond Grove. And the sun was shining at last, which only improved the view.

  1. Definitely an Autumn sky, Linda — so beautiful, as is your fanciful verse! Enjoy your adventure and remember, we ALL want to travel vicariously with you when you return!!

    1. I never did find more crystals, Debbie — but there are plenty of other beautiful things to share. As I travel north, I’m finding more color in the trees and a lot of already-falling leaves. It’s a wonderful combination for someone who loves autumn.

      That verse came to me in two parts — the first phrase, “Willow the wisp,” came to me one day, and the next morning, I had the rest. It wasn’t exactly a middle of the night experience, but it did make me think of Saul Bellow’s famous words: “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”

    1. Thanks, Cheri. From what I’ve read, it seems you’ve been on a bit of an extended trip, yourself. I’m glad you’re safely home, and look forward to hearing a bit about your travels.

    1. Hi, Bee! It’s lovely to have you visit — I’m stilll missing posts from you. How’s that for a nudge?

      I’m doing the midwestern version of a Grand Tour. I’ve already been in Arkansas (mostly), Oklahoma (briefly), Missouri (passing through with one stop at a prairie), and now I’m in Kansas. I’ll be here for the next week, and then? Well, I’m not sure. I may go farther west, or I may spend the rest of the time in the Texas Panhandle. I just don’t know.

      Anyway, I’ve had a great visit with family for a day. We met at a midway point; they’ll go back home, and I’ll head off to my new home-away from home. I’m hoping for more great prairie skies on the way.

    1. That’s kind of you, Jean. I do love sharing what I see around me, and sometimes, when the right words come — well, they need to be shared, too. And I do enjoy fitting photos and words, no matter which comes first. I’m glad you liked this combination.

    1. Thanks, GP. I’m still klutzy with my camera, and generally clueless when it comes to processing, but I am pretty good at noticing what’s around me. That may not be the worst starting point in the world.

  2. For whatever reason, this part of WI doesn’t encourage magnificent cloud formations. Most people are content with sunsets, but not me. But we are having a lovely autumn so far and leaves are gettin’ glorious.

    1. It’s still tropical in Houston, and it was strangely warm and humid for the beginning of my trip, but that weather did provide some good clouds. Then, it devolved into fog and classic gray — but it reminded me of San Francisco, and that’s not all bad.

      The color here is scattered, but pretty where it appears. I’m glad to hear that your fall is an appealing one. I hope you have some blue skies to set off those colors.

    1. Yes, she would. As a matter of fact, I stayed at a remarkable bed and breakfast where the hostess had some of the most beautiful red hair I’ve seen. I laughed at her comment that, growing up, she hated it, but now that it’s turning gray, she’s mourning its departure. Time does change perspective: in a multitude of ways.

    1. I wonder if you have the same phenomenon there, Sol — the ghostly light that glows across the landscape. For some reason, I’m thinking it might appear in peat bogs, but that would make it more a Scottish or Irish phenomenon. Maybe.

      I’ve tried to remember the will-o-the-wisp story or poem I was told as a child, but I can’t find the exact one. I remember it scared me, just a little. These clouds didn’t scare me at all.

      1. Yes in the Forest we get that but there is too much light pollution to see it where I live in Southampton. (peat bogs would make common sense in that case).
        Meaning: 1. a phosphorescent light seen hovering or floating at night on marshy ground, thought to result from the combustion of natural gases.
        2. a person or thing that is difficult or impossible to reach or catch.
        Here’s the ancient lyrics to Willo the wisp:

        1. I just got the page to open up. My goodness — a little dark, that. Still, it’s interesting how compelling the phenomenon remains, and how many interpretations of its reality (or unreality) there are. Thanks for adding that!

    1. Thanks, Steve. Now that you and Robert made the Parrish connection, I can see it. I’m not familiar enough with his work that it would have come to mind without your suggestion. I wouldn’t have thought of Wyeth, either, but some of his maritime paintings have some great, colorful clouds.

  3. I would say that Willow the Wisp is a wonderful take on the phrase. I love the idea of looking for curls — just a wonderful poem and that sky! Oh, we all would love to see that sky!

    1. When Willow came to me, I was so delighted. It still makes me laugh to think of it. Who says there can’t be boy clouds and girl clouds?

      It does occur to me that I know someone whose curls look remarkably like those clouds. She lives somewhere in Michigan, and has a smile like the sun. Check out the mirror, and see if I’m not right!

    1. Gerard, that’s just lovely. I’m seeing more willows now as I move out of the mountains. They’re among the most graceful trees, I think, and your words certainly are graceful.

    1. Thanks, Dina. It is going well, in any number of ways. There are some little glitches that have come along the way, but that’s life — and nothing that can’t be overcome. Onward!

  4. Fall fashions everywhere – not one left out of the seasonal color changes. (Nothing like a puffy sleeve with matching Peter Pan collar trim to make a willowy gal feel breezy – great picture and nice quip of a poem!)
    Looks like the skies are clearing.
    Saw 2 lines of ducks overhead this morning. Promising…
    (checking on Miss D later – before tomorrow’s rain)
    Have a great time on that concrete ribbon! Be the bear that went over the mountain!

    1. Speaking of breezy, a first peek out the door suggests the day is starting clear and calm. The stars here are just gorgeous. I can’t remember the last time I saw the Milky Way — and Orion, high in the sky. What a difference a few hundred miles makes, not only in landscape, but in skyscape.

      I see the front finally cleared Houston — I suspect everyone’s celebrating that, including the four-footed ones. I was out walking the prairie last night, and flushed a covey of quail just at sunset. I’m not sure which of us was the more startled. I was sorry they had to find another spot for the night, but there certainly were options.

      I went all bear-ish yesterday afternoon. What did I see? The Kansas turnpike, from the vantage point of a two-lane gravel road. I stuck to the gravel.

    1. Do you have nice changes in autumn, too? I hope so. I like seeing the seasons change. I wouldn’t even mind seeing a real, snowy winter again: but I’d want to visit it, not live with it!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kayti. I don’t see any clouds anywhere on the horizon this morning, and even better, I don’t see any smoke. There was a big grass fire yesterday that filled the air with a smokey haze for hours. Whatever the cause, it reminded me of how irritating smoke can be and renewed my sympathy for people who live around wildfires.

      I’m staying right along the tracks, and there are a lot of trains that come by, day and night. Yesterday, I thought of you when I saw one carrying a container marked “Matson.” It’s quite rare to see one of their containers here in the midwest — I always wonder what’s inside, and where it’s going.

      1. Now you have me thinking. Could be anything I imagine. Smoke always reminds me of the wildfire in 1989 in Berkeley hills. Destroyed Dr. A’s old home along with so many others. One daughter in So. Calif. has seen them far away in the hills . We turned back home they were so bad one year.

        1. I found the answer to the smoke. The Tallgrass Prairie carried out two days of controlled burns as part of their prairie management program. I’ve also learned that part of the haze in the air is due to the harvest going on. There are a lot of fields giving off a lot of dust as those big machines do their work! And of course, most of the county roads are graveled: more dust!

    1. There’s a lot to be said for looking up occasionally. The sky is beautiful, and constantly changing. Yesterday the sunrise was blue and white; today, it was pink and yellow. Who knows that tomorrow will bring?

      By the way, eventually I’ll be sharing a great photo of three butterflies on one flower. They reminded me of certain ladies at one church socials years ago, trying to get that last piece of pie.

    1. I can’t help thinking a little more playfulness would be good for our world. That’s one reason I enjoy watching young animals. They still can play for the sheer joy of it, while we’re busy turning human play into — well, into something else. I’m glad you enjoyed this little bit of verbal playfulness.

  5. Your photo reminds me, interesting comparison though, of Georgia O’Keeffe’s desert landscape. Yes, the colour of those clouds are like the sandy desert. Thanks for sharing, both visual and words.

    1. And your comment’s especially interesting, since I played with O’Keeffe’s famous “Sky Above Clouds” painting for the photo’s caption. I hadn’t thought of the color: only of the stacked, vertical layers of earth and sky.

      I’d initially thought of trying to make it to New Mexico on this trip, but it’s impossible to fit everything in to a single trip — as you so well know!
      If you’d had three weeks in London, you still would be saying, “Oh, how I wish I could have…” Trust me on that!

        1. Yes, I saw that. I’ve not read it yet — I’ve fallen behind while traveling, since I’m also reading about the areas I’m visiting. I’ll be home by the end of the week, and if I haven’t read it yet, I will then. Lucky you, to see such an exhibit!

  6. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I would say Spring, (where I live) blink too much you will have missed it entirely. On the positive side, it so nice and warm – no humidity. It’s delightful. Then there is Autumn of which you can have a beautiful sunny with the bluest skies with undercurrent of cold. I like the contrast. The photograph of the clouds reminded me of the pics my Mom currently has displayed in her bathroom. She’s a cloud fanatic. I think she would’ve liked your poem about Willow the Wisp. I do too.

    1. That lack of humidity is as appealing to me in autumn as the decrease in temperatures. For one thing, it helps to make the stars (relatively) more visible on the coastal plain, where a combination of humidity and haze always makes star-gazing iffy. Here in Kansas, away from even small town lights, the stars are so beautiful, and the planets are vivid.

      You should tell your mom about the Cloud Appreciation Society. I’ll bet she would enjoy it — and I’m certainly glad you enjoyed the poem.

      1. It must be nice to see the stars. I would have to go out to the country to really see the stars (well more of them…) and the fireflies too.

    1. I was so amused when I thought of the lovely Willow. Sometimes, the best things come when we don’t try so hard — just relaxing and having fun with words, photos, whatever, can be exactly what’s needed. I’m glad you like it.

    1. Thanks, Maria. I’ve only a few more days on the road now, and there will be a few more new sights to see. I’m hoping that some of them equal these clouds!

    1. I don’t understand all the science of it, Allen, but it seems to me that higher humidity leads to billowing clouds leads to more attractive reflected light. It’s dry as a bone here in Kansas, atmospherically speaking — so dry that I’ve been experiencing static electricity for the first time in ages. But in Arkansas, the humidity just kept building. Eventually, wonderful clouds were replaced by not-so-wonderful clouds (that is, by fog), but there were some treasures before the gray set in.

    1. Thank you, Mary. Perhaps the colors would do just as well for your spring — I’m imagining some peachy-pink in your world, too. These transitional seasons — fall and spring — have more similarities than we sometimes think. Now and then, it seems as though nature herself is at play.

  7. What a beautiful photo! Autumn skies seem to be the most colorful around here. Pumpkins are piling up alright. I can’t believe October is almost done with us.

    1. I’m glad you like the photo, Bella. The colors are so appealing to me. One interesting thing I did while traveling was stay at a place near the Kansas prairie for five days. Every morning, I took a sunrise photo from the same spot on the patio. I’m anxious to get home and see what they truly look like. One thing’s for sure — every morning was different. I suppose we could take photos of a lifetime of sunrises, and find the same thing. No repetitions in nature!

    1. Sometimes a little ditty is all that’s needed. A few days after I wrote it, I found myself wondering if I’d been influenced by another ditty my mother often repeated when I was a child:

      “There was a little girl who had a little curl,
      right in the middle of her forehead.
      When she was good, she was very, very good,
      but when she was bad, she was horrid!”

  8. Beautiful picture. . . The reddish hue of the clouds makes me think of the old saying, “Red in the evening, sailors’ delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning.” When I see a red sky at dawn, I always think that a storm is coming -though I have no idea whether the color of the sky has any actual relationship to the weather.

    1. Actually, sky color is a good predictor. I knew that, but couldn’t have explained it very well, so I looked around and found an understandable article from Scientific American.

      I remember the green skies of the midwest, too — often predictors of tornadoes or severe thunderstorms. There was a certain green sky that always sent us heading to the storm cellar. I’ll bet you’ve seen that, too.

    1. More luck than skill, I’d say, Susan. I do tend to be quite a sky watcher, though, so sometimes I can see something building that might be interesting. I certainly was happy with this photo.

    1. I really did have fun with the poem. Of course, I was raised on such high-brow classics as “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat,” so it was right up my alley. Besides, what good is the creative process if we can’t have a little fun with it now and then?

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