I have a new philosophy about autumn.
As a photographer, I once waited eagerly for just the right panorama of color. I drove miles to spots I was sure would bedazzle, only to discover I was too early, or too late. I’d plan my days off for a major photo expedition, only to find rain instead. I’d ask for advice about the places with the most maples, and the most color, and then be disappointed when a dry year lessened the impact.
I don’t remember quite when, or quite how, but at some point I had an aha! moment and changed my methods and my outlook. I still hunt for autumn, but now it’s one leaf at a time.
Maybe it was the day I looked down and found one perfectly shaped maple leaf lying at my feet. Or the time I was charmed by one solitary tinted branch in a tree of green. Maybe it was when I got down on my belly and looked really close at the underside of a fallen leaf, or when I saw the glow of a single leaf against a sunny autumn sky.
Whenever it was, it lowered my expectations, it removed the burden of needing to find that perfect scene atop a high hill where a canopy of maples extended for endless miles. Those places do exist, and I’ll happily shoot them whenever possible, but with my new philosophy, I can find autumn while walking the dog or even just strolling in my own backyard.
Lucky for me, I had already developed this new philosophy before I moved to Chicago for a year, living three miles from the Loop, where concrete was the norm and the only trees were the ones marching single file on either side of our residential street. No panoramas there; no dense canopy of color. I was not daunted.
Armed with my camera and a tripod, I marched conspicuously up and down the street, ignoring the glances from neighbors who wondered what on earth I was looking for. And, just as I had come to expect, I found autumn–one leaf at a time. I found it coyly playing with the urban light and shadows; I found it in the red ivy climbing on buildings or on the gated chain link fences that provided security around every house and yard; I saw it on the stunted shrubbery gasping for breath in the alleys. City lights might overpower the stars, and sunrise/sunset be lost behind the towering buildings, but autumn had come for a visit, and I knew how to find it.
Moving to Door County gave me more options, but it hasn’t changed my methods. Ask George. At any moment while we’re walking the dog I’m liable toss the leash his way and pull out my camera. “Whaaat…..?” he mutters, looking at our very ordinary surroundings, and then nods. He knows I’ve found a bit of autumn, a tiny fragment, contained in the delicate beauty of one single, solitary leaf.