“The sky floats gray feathers on the far ridge, and an end-of-the-day rain plays gentle arpeggios on my rain jacket. I crest a hillside somber with spruce, serious trees humorless as winter. The wind swims through their branches and they responds with lugubrious sighings, not the sibilant tissue-paper whispers of aspen.
“From this height the crowns of the aspen in the valley below thread it with tawny topaz traceries. These leaves a quick week ago were a rich, raffish yellow, distilled sunshine pressed and concentrated into a small leaf, multiplied by a million to a glory…”
Aspen by Ann Zwinger
Here on Steens Mountain the colors of rock, tree and bush create a rich autumn mural. All the milder tones of this place on earth seem to be a background for the effulgence and brilliance of the aspen before its leaves fall in fall. One part of the palette displayed by nature on a September mountain embarrasses our verbal spectrum in English: golden, yellow, sunny, blonde, fulvid, aurulent, citrine, chrysal, flavous. Not one of those words captures the calm intensity, the bright coolness, the variety within the unity of an aspen trees’ leaves shining under a blue sky or glowing in the rapidly dimming light on a clouded September evening.
Nature spreads her beauty whether there is human to notice…or not. You must imagine that Ravens circling high over a glacial gorge are noting and feeling possessive of such views every fall.
Only a profound human artist can come close to what nature profligately tosses about every year, day to day, eon after eon. Here: Paul Klee.
All the aspen and mountain images from Kirk Gooding on our recent Klamath Bird Observatory trip to the Steens Mountain and Malheur area.
For more on aspen, read Ann Zwinger:
“Every time the breeze catches the dry aspen leaves it sounds like rain, but none comes.”
“Striders are still active late int he fall, maneuvering among the yellow aspen leaves that clot the surface of the pool.”
“I count the spring year well begun when the aspens dangle their three-inch catkins, fuzzy earrings which dust the cabin deck with pollen… The amount of pollen is prodigious. When I cut a bouquet of spring branches, the table on which they sit is deep in pale sulphur-yellow pollen the next day.”
“The sound of aspen leaves is distinctive: a soft permeating gossiping of the goings-on of breeze and bird. Any whisper of air sets them sibilating, telling all they know over the back fences of the pine ridges.”