Monday, October 6, 2008

Little Secrets of the Forest Floor

Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Although I was born and bred in the rolling prairies and red dirt of Oklahoma - I am at heart, and by virtue of the last fifteen years spent living in New Mexico, a high desert dweller - a lover of sage and chamisa, snakeweed and Apache plume, pinon and juniper, and the spiny goodness of yucca and cholla. In this land of little rain these plants are steadfast reminders of what amazing beauty exists despite so little moisture. Nothing is more breathtaking than looking at an infinite swath of high desert on a September day with fields of blue-green sage and buttery yellow blooms of chamisa and snakeweed flanked by purple asters and sunflowers rising up against a cerulean sky or, even better, a salmon colored mesa. The onslaught of color, distilled at 7000 feet in the rarefied desert air, tends to overwhelm all the senses at once.

Kitchen Mesa, Ghost Ranch

Now, of course, I am living back in Oklahoma and slowly getting re-introduced to the subtle beauties secreted in these fertile lands. There is spectacular beauty here as well - perhaps even rivaling the overripe colors of the high desert. But to see it requires changing the way you look at things. The landscape here does not always invite you in with an O'Keeffe-worthy canvas but rather exacts a certain respect and intimacy before unveiling her hidden gems. This budding terrestrial affair has challenged the way I once viewed the natural world and urges me to take yet another look.

The intricacy of the forest floor is boundless - full of life and flushed with both texture and color. A coral colored mushroom is the rare jewel that awaits those who seek a deeper intimacy with the forest.

Where one learns to see not in shadows of green from dark to light and in between - but instead in fleshy pinks and shades of lapis lazuli.

"Nature," said Thoreau in his journal, "is mythical and mystical always, and spends her whole genius on the least work." It is this "least work" that I find staggeringly breathtaking as I discover whole new worlds on my forest walk in southern Oklahoma. Gently I prod, and within my cupped hands rests an entire universe .

Form versus function. Evolutionary scientists tells us that function begat form. Yet it is form that seduces me and I remain transfixed at the sheer magnitude of geometry heaved up from the forest floor to be explored and discovered.

Nature is indeed the greatest artist. Should I lament my travels to museums far and wide when all all along the ultimate gallery was at my doorstep? It is here that new colors, pigments perhaps unknown to even the greatest of masters, remain undiscovered and just out of reach to those who have not yet learned to see within these verdant walls. Who could imagine such a splendid wash of yellow and on fungi no less? I can't begin to fathom the cataclysm and combustion of organic matter required to finally form a perfect yellow mushroom.

The multiplicity of from and color is infinite in the forest;

and all the secrets are hidden behind these unsuspecting veils of jade.


P. Ollig said...

Such sublime beauty, both in prose and picture, as always, of course!

Anonymous said...

Tremendous photos and post. Finding that much color in an environment many find muted shows a truly keen eye!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Wonderful T.R., wonderful!
My mouth was watering at your description of the high desert--such an exquisite memory from several years ago. So intensely was I impacted by the color, I painted my interior spaces likewise after returning home. Could not feel enough of being within the beauty.

Your recognition of the magnitude captured within the simplest forms is always my favorite from you!
You have so much to share with us all.

Mary said...

There's a little truth here..."Should I lament my travels to museums far and wide when all all along the ultimate gallery was at my doorstep?" Actually, never regret the travels and museums!

The forest floor is stunning through your artistic eyes, Tim.
That last photo of the veils of jade is so great. I enlarged it three times :o)

Anonymous said...

What a remarkable writer you are. You have transported me to another world.

Kathie Brown said...

T.R., I don't know what to say, it is all breath-takingly beautiful and your words carried me along as well as your photos! To see the world in a grain of have seen a universe in the fungi!

Lana Gramlich said...

Sometimes I miss the natural beauty of the Niagara Region of Canada, but then I pop out to any of our local areas & I regain my equilibrium. Nature is beautiful wherever it's found, of course, even in the stones that make up the road in front of our house. I'm often pleasantly surprised at what I find in & around my own yard, when I actually take the time to really look.

coolwaterworks said...

T.R., wonderful pictures and great writing as always... Yes, indeed it is the form that attracts our eyes the most to the intricacies of nature... However, it takes an artist's eyes like yours to open the eyes of others to the beauty of these intricacies...

Doug Taron said...

One of your best pairings of words and photos yet. I loved your description of the desert, and look forward to getting back to it about a month from now. Thanks for a little preview.

kjpweb said...

Gotcha - not only an excellent description - but also very much like my own infatuation with Florida.
So many things to see - especially things you don't really expect or are prepared for.
Great series! Cheers, Klaus

Guy D said...

Great pics with awesome colors. Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said...

Wow, great post and photos. I very much appreciate your description of the desert and your love for it. It does have a beauty all it's own. If I could just stand the heat....


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