I want you, my astute readers, to consider sky and light as part of your gardens, extensions of your landscapes. I want you to become increasingly aware of the gestalt surrounding your gardens, the time of the day, the season, the play of light and shadow. If you happen to live on property where you can see woods, rills and tree lines beyond your modest piece of the world I want you to borrow and incorporate them as though they are a part of your realm. If you live on postage stamp property in sight of a prominent tree in a neighbor's yard, attractive angular buildings and/or a view to the skies I want you to consider these as borrowed, embraceable. Do away with myopia. Open your eyes and minds. Look to the sky, the horizon, all manner of human creation and natural element as foil that may deepen, expand and enhance your landscapes, your gardens, your lives. Your gardens are extensions of yourselves. Your gardens are the understanding, supplant and manipulation of the natural world through the prisms of your sensibilities as proud members of the kingdom of man. One of the qualities we all embody is creativity; to some degree there is the artist within each of us. It manifests in many ways. Gardeners employ this trait whenever we take trowel to earth whether we recognize it or not. So, open your eyes, embrace and borrow your surroundings, be inclusive.
Autumn Light. Photo by Wayne Paquette
Today is the day after the evening the asteroid hurtled past between the earth's moon and our planet in 2011. Late afternoon is upon us.
On this Wednesday we were treated to a lovely, unseasonably warm November day. The sky is still a soft blue, somewhere between powder blue and sapphire. The near-full moon, vague and transparent, hangs 30 degrees above the horizon. It slowly brightens in the cloudless eastern sky as light diminishes.
Above the eastern horizon the sky infused a smoky rose. This old-fashioned ashy pink is the backdrop for our largest garden at this time of the autumn late day. This foil was not a conscious forethought; rather, it was our muse, Serendipity, who provided us this wonderful gift. Our large garden we have purposely filled with autumn and winter interest trees and shrubs. This garden we view year round from the east-facing vantage of our two sets of sliding doors on the deck. It is temporal art framed by these four rectangles taller than wide.
Our autumn garden with meandering paths is filled with plants, woody and herbaceous, of differing forms and heights, some vase-shaped, some proudly round-crowned, others weeping and some tall and narrow accents, vertical specimens, punctuating exclamation pointing the way into space. Some shrubs are broad, flat-topped and low, others upright and mounding or towering with interesting branching patterns. There is a mix of evergreen and deciduous. It is the fall festival and it is beautiful.
All of these trees, shrubs and perennials display an exceptional array of color in this season. Colors deepen as the sun lowers in the sky. Splendid and sun-drenched planes bask over sepia or murky black-green recesses. Colors, reflected in the lowering sun's rays, warm and cool, lighten and darken in the play of shadow and light, taking on rare effervescence in the late of day in the autumn garden. All of these colorful shapes are planted below and forward of the growing deepening smoky pink sky. On this serene, placid day devoid of autumn zephyrs all of this festival color under the canopy of the pink backdrop will soon fade.
Sunset approaches. The strength of the icy moon grows.
The distant undulating eastern horizon through the trees shimmers a heather of glowering gold and orange, an autumn bonfire. This resplendent pastoral blaze erupts far beyond the great wild trees at the back edge of our largest garden. This late afternoon fire reflected in the distant hills is the harmonic vision En Pleine Aire as if captured by Barbara Lussier, a greatly talented local artist. The sun lowers in the west as the brilliant cadmium and chrome gold mix becomes a thinning verge upon the far trees. Suddenly, momentarily the thinning bonfire becomes but a thread of brilliant molten white gold outline tracing the very crest of the hills. Then it is gone.
The autumn garden is a stopping point for so many beneficial bees, butterflies and insects. The butterflies are no longer about, the migrating Monarchs were the last to be seen. Still, late-season moths awaken at dusk. Flowers of hardy mums and the latest asters are landing pads for bees of many colors and stripes - a last mad dash by some of nature's hardest workers to flush hives full of golden honey for the nearing winter. The chrysanthemums are bright yellow, salmon, pale cream, lavender, dark pink and bronze, single, doubles and buttons. Bright golden yellow dime-sized disks are surrounded in numerous, evenly set strap-shaped dark purple petals in classic daisy fashion on a new very late blooming Japanese aster, 'Ezo Murasaki'. This year after a scant start following a very hard winter the honeybees have thankfully resurged. For them today has been a good day.
This large garden, filled with foods for so many flying creatures, is also a destination for many birds. Shrubs and trees are plush with fruits, drupes and berries in the autumn. Perennials and grasses provide an assortment of seed. And once hungry birds have spied and eaten a garden treat many visit our feeders on the deck. These feeders we replenish with affection. There are the year round feathered residents such as titmice, woodpeckers and blue jays; there are winter visitors such as pine siskins, white-throated sparrows and juncos. There are those who are merely passing through to warmer winter destinations such as Brewer's blackbirds in glossy mother-of-pearl ebony feathers sporting bright yellow eyes. All of these birds dressed in arrays of differently colored feathers are integral components of this garden, too. They, along with falling leaves are its moving parts when the autumnal breezes and winter winds are not forcing their wills upon marionettes of dancing branches. All add life, dance and counterpoint to the slower circadian rhythms. They are notes to parchment paper in this natural symphonic chorus of bird chant, melody embedded upon the cantata of wind and whistle in trees, bushes, the chord rustle of drying leaves on branches.
The sun is set. Evening arrives.
A thin line tracing just above the distant horizon, just below the now smoky mauve is gray-purple. As the light abates this dusky color rises gradually replacing the ebbing pink. Purple night comes over the distant hill making her entrance. The colors and shapes in the garden darken becoming deeper and gloriously rich. The male cardinals in bright red plumage, the females in warm olive with red highlights, shadowy now, are the last diners after sunset. Then they are gone to roost for the night. The colorful planes of the garden are quickly dimming, catching up with and aligning to its murkier recesses.
It is the night before the full beaver moon, this November 9. And the moon levitates in the eastern deep blue-gray sky on this yet cloudless evening. Jupiter is bright; in relationship to our moon it is lower and more southerly. Jupiter is at four on the dial of a clock with the moon at its heart. The garden grows increasingly dark, nearing the status of mere silhouette against the waning light in the east. Stars appear in the north.
While the wide arc of the globe is turning,
We feel it moving through the dark.
Hear the hills, scrape the sky,
And our eyes fill with the falling sparks.
Revolution Earth, indeed; Thank you, B-52s. The vault of the sky suggests ashen charcoal. The gray-purple of the distant sky has darkened to cold slate. Night envelops quickly at this time of the year. It is spectacular, this Whistler nocturne framed by four in the rectangular canvases of our sliding deck doors.
Darkness descends. Night, her influence, full to bear.
As 6 p.m. chimes on our cuckoo clock gossamer sheets and ghostly wisps of clouds fly south to north increasingly aglow and silvery white as they approach and catch the cold radiating light of the moon. Jupiter, now at 3 o'clock from the moon-heart on the sky dial becomes diffused beyond the fleeting clouds. Then Jupiter suddenly breaks free as a patch of Prussian blue rises and captures it. Jupiter glows distinct in a brilliant distant point once more. Streams of Prussian blue demarcate the cloud processional, the negative space in this Whistler saga, Liquid Sky.
A perfect rainbow halo of light encompasses the moon at quarter after seven. The stretching, yearning fingers of clouds increase their tenacity in their northerly journey. The moon and Jupiter maintain clarity in the infinite canyons of indigo space when unfettered by the gadding clouds. As evening progresses giant chasms of Prussian blue gradually lessen to mere valleys in the thickening processional. The fingers of clouds become hands, the hands become arms. Arms become a rushing onslaught of insurrection. Kingdoms of majestic clouds increase their spoils. No longer are mere flying wisps migrating in the dark and deep night sky. The stars are vanquished. Cloud cover coalesces, wins the night. It is the leading edge of the encroaching Thursday storm.
The halo of the moon broadens its reach but grows diffuse. The sky is now a gray moonlit monochrome, an effusive subtle backdrop as the cool light of the moon filters through the bowl of clouds. The large domed crowns of the quiet wild trees, elms, oaks, maples and hickories, at the back edge of the autumn garden composed of fine branchlets, touch the aura of sky; they counterbalance in rounded mass. Their tone is not quite sable. Nor is the shade brown. Centuries ago Rembrandt van Rihn painted this umber - deep, rich and cavernous.
The twigs, springs of dark water, tens of hundreds of thousands upon thousands stretch, reach, touch the sky. Multitudes of crossing and descending twigs drip and trickle into brooklets. Brooklets pour into rivulets of stems, stems cascade into larger streams of more substantial, calipered branches and finally merge into greater, fewer massive rivers of limbs. Limbs plummet into mighty trunks. Trunks crash into an ocean of darkness which earlier had been the autumn garden, the horizon that glowed a heather of brilliant golden orange at sun's set and encompassing all between. Paradox: the discernible depth of sienna-sable, the Rembrandt umber, is simultaneously a mere two-dimensional silhouette. It is a wood burner's coral reef relief, this portrait of dark against the cool, phosphorescent arc of the sky. Night has overcome the day as the clouds have vanquished the sky, the deluge, complete. Night plays tricks on the human eye.
My attention turns from the garden of the extraordinary night outside of the four frames towards the peace and slumber just beyond the threshold of my bedroom. It may be a dreamless night but more likely a Dali-esque midnight matinee awaits. The night of my mind may flourish with flashes of thought, idea, color and radiance. Gardens of dreams are welcome events.
Gold and rose, the color of the dream I had
Not too long ago
A misty blue and lilac too
A never to grow old.
And thank you, Jimi Hendrix. An alternate magic realm awaits. And so does my muse, Serendipity.
Though I have attempted to paint in purple prose, arguably poorly, this impression of a few late day November hours it is but an example for all calendar days. The seasons change. There are beautiful brilliant days, those mistier and softer, others stormy, at the edge of madness. Night and day turns in circadian rhythm in all seasons. Light and color changes, even within the course of mere minutes. This plays out daily. It is never twice a copy. Find your own personal manner to include, see and incorporate the gift of light and shadow, color and form, distant horizons and natural occurrence. Borrow. This will influence your manipulation of garden, your private countenance with the physical, spiritual and creative realm in your mind and heart. The artist within your being translates into the skill manifested in the earth in which you garden. Go and garden. Do so with joy.