We’re now in the midst of the fall season, surrounded by vibrant and glorious colors. Each day brings something new – a tree whose leaves have turned overnight or a tree whose leaves have dropped to the ground.  Fall is correctly referred to as the season of change and this year that change seems to be especially dominated by the colors of yellow and gold.  The colors are vibrant when painted with sunshine against a bright blue sky and they stand out amidst a gray sky.  And once those lovely yellow and gold leaves have dried and fallen to the ground, they crunch and crackle under the weight of shoes and boots.

Our short season of fall asks me to admire and appreciate it each day.

The nights have a bit of coolness to them now, and the sunshine isn’t quite as hot as it was earlier this month.  Our daylight is becoming noticeably shorter as we move closer to fall.  The skies are filled with Canada geese flying over, strengthening the wings of the young ones as they prepare for migrating south; their honking fills the air.  I noticed these sedum blossoms the other day with spots of color in them.  They too are responding to the fast approaching change in the seasons.

The bright colors of fall have come to an end.  The oaks have turned to their deeper rust color and the ground is now littered with faded colors.  As I was out raking leaves, a light rain started.  On the still lake it provided its punctuation in the water surface.  The reflection was beautiful and a reminder to me that even though the bright colors of fall are gone and many of the trees are without their vibrant leaves, there is still an amazing beauty in the world around us.

Ordway Japanese garden fall 11379_StaatsThere are so many lovely “hidden gems” in the Twin Cities, and one just happens to be in my neighborhood.  Como Park, which includes a conservatory, zoo, carousel, golf course, lake, swimming pool, picnic areas, and many trails, also holds a lovely Japanese garden tucked away down a winding path.  In the early morning hours with the colors of autumn on display, I found myself humbled and amazed at the quiet and the beauty in the garden.  The fallen leaves seemed to have a purpose in their random display, as if saying that all is right in this changing landscape.  The colors spoke to me, begging to be remembered as they will be quickly replaced with the white of snow.  This year’s change of seasons has been hurried, yet here in the Japanese garden there was a stillness and quiet reminding me that each season holds its own purpose and to trust in the changes of fall prior to the long nights of winter.

Wind and fall color_Staats 7154We are in the glorious midst of fall – the change of seasons from summer to winter.  One day we have bright sunshine and the next day is cool and cloudy, and throughout them all the colors of our landscape continue to change.  So too I’m reminded of the changes in our lives.  It was a year ago that my father passed away and that was a change I was not prepared for.  But I’ve come to realize that change is the one constant in life.  With three deaths in the family, a change in jobs, a kitchen remodel, and a different car, I sometimes wonder if I recognize my life anymore.  But I’ve learned something with each change, and I know that the best way to honor my father is to live the values that he helped to instill in me.  He laid the basis for my sense of adventure and my joy in being outdoors in nature – two of the traits I enjoy so much in my photography.  As I was photographing this slough the air would be still, and then the wind would come up.  It caused the water to ripple across the surface and the cattails to dance in front of me.  The movement and the colors of the trees were all a glorious celebration of change.

Daybreak through the leaves_StaatsWith the promise of autumn sunshine, I headed out before dawn in search of some fall color.  Gradually the changing colors have found their way down to the Twin Cities, and the landscape has become beautiful and filled with the rich colors of autumn.  This morning was cold enough to provide frost in many areas giving an almost-white coating over the grass.  The smell in the air is different as the seasons change and it was delightful to greet the day outside on this crisp and clear morning.

Fall boating_StaatsThe calendar says the end of September, but we were treated to the glory of a summer’s day with temperatures n the 80’s and warm sunshine.  Knowing that these are gifts to take advantage of, we headed out for some fishing.  Not only were the skies beautiful, but the fall colors are starting to be evident.  The golds are showing and the greens are becoming much more faded and muted.  Even the fishing seemed to rise to the occasion of this glorious day – we got our share of sunfish and crappies.  I came home knowing that if this is the last time we are fishing for the year, at least we had a glorious finale on a late day in September.

Sunrise over frost & ice 3920_StaatsOur temperatures have been dropping at night causing the sloughs and lakes to begin their ice-over.  It isn’t thick by any means, but it is the start of our shift from fall to winter.  I’ve always enjoyed the reflections of trees and horizons in water, and the change over to ice gives these same reflections a much different look.  The lines are softer and more muted, and until our lakes are snow-covered the reflections can sometimes be almost mirror-like.  On this morning two days ago, the sun was burning through the cold temperatures and the heavy frost causing the landscape to glow in the early light.

Autumn gold 3889_StaatsNovember is a transition month in Minnesota;  our weather can be anywhere from warm and sunny to gray and cold, rain or snow to wind or calm.  It seems like we’ve covered all these bases in the past few days.  Early in the week I took this image of the brilliant colors of a cotoneaster in our yard.  As the morning sun lit the leaves they came alive with a beautiful glow; perhaps it was their swan song.  By Wednesday morning we awoke to two inches of wet snow gracing the golds and reds in the remaining leaves.  Thursday night our temperatures plummeted below freezing, followed by strong winds on Friday.  The leaf colors were killed off by the cold, and the leaves themselves were blown off the trees and bushes to the ground.  Within a few days the colors and leaves of autumn had given way to the skeletal trees of winter.

Wisconsin fall 7D3485_StaatsCome with me for an afternoon in Wisconsin.  The air is cool but the sun is warm; the temperature’s about 57 degrees.  We head down a Rustic Road in Chippewa County.  After twisting and turning through agricultural areas there’s a sign ahead that we’re entering the Chippewa County Forest.  To the right is another sign marked Moon Ridge Trail and the forest road heading to the east looks inviting and filled with fall color.  Off the paved road and onto the forest road, each mile takes us deeper into the forest.  The colors are brilliant – especially in contrast to the blue sky dotted with white clouds.  There’s a different smell in the air – of fall and drying leaves.  We stop numerous times to photograph the colors and the meandering road.  In one hour we have driven less than three miles because of all our stopping.  There are many side trails leading from the main forest road but this one ahead isn’t drivable in the car.  Off on foot, up the trail, and then down the hillside.  As we step out of the forest area the view expands to the Spring Creek Flowage – a lake that meanders through the county – and the colors are intense and wonderful.  This is our view (and only ours as there’s no one else around).  Breathe in the smell of fall, feel the warmth of the sun, listen to the wind rustling through the leaves, take in the beauty of this day, and be thankful for being here at this moment of peak color in fall.