Thursday, October 9, 2014

Red October

All summer long Nature has been preparing for the bonfire of October, showing red ever so sparingly as though not to steal fire from autumn's flames. Of course the sky above has been coloring itself by different rules.

Staghorn sumac, rhus hirta
At Halibut Point sumac trees signal the new season. They flaunt the ascent of red, its complexities in relation to yellow, and the innumerable varieties of orange born to their liaison. While most of the landscape retains its verdancy the sumacs seem impatient for celebrity. Obligingly we admire them.

Attaining red
Every so often you may be satisfied that true red stands before you. It depends on your angle of view, the time of day, and your visual vocabulary. Good friends may not agree with your conclusion.

European barberry, berberis vulgaris
For instance my artistic wife and I considered together a reasonable color designation for these barberries. Nearby orange leaves helped nudge our consensus slightly to the yellow side of center, to vermilion.

Black huckleberry,  gaylusaccia baccata
Adding yet a bit more yellow takes us to scarlet. Highlights on huckleberry leaves emblazon scarlet across the moors on a misty day. Admittedly the effect is complicated by deeper tones within the foliage.

For assurance on true scarlet we look to the bird named for the cassock color of Catholic prelates.

Sour-gum tree, nyssa sylvatica (center)
I contemplated this full-spectrum scene by the quarry to see if the shadows in the sour-gum contained purple, from an infusion of blue, or merely a deep intensification of its red. Painters might achieve the maroon effect by adding touches of both blue and yellow into their red.

Sassafras, sassafras albidum
Within these sassafras leaves red transmutes to mahogany rather than the tree's more typical yellow-orange fall coloration, probably because if its dry location. What an artist attains with pigments the leaf embodies in the glory of its demise.

Poison ivy, rhus radicans
The final adornment of poison ivy incorporates rose, crimson, and claret among its reds, which seem reminiscent of both fruit juices and of wines.

Virginia rose, rosa virginiana
All along the shoreline roses mature to berries in the mode of cerise, the French cherry.

We're called to notice an autumn sky where red takes full liberty with blue and yellow, playing into sepia and violet above carmine and coral. The sun is setting not only on the foliage pageant but on the hospitality of shirt-sleeve rambles.


  1. What a lovely, thoughtful and poetic post, as always. Thank you for this meditation on the complexities of red.

  2. I'm not sure my comments are getting through but in case none did, please know that I will be thinking about this and revisiting this post often just to drink in the beauty of a place I used to walk throughout the year when I lived in Rockport. This is so lovely and I am so grateful to you for displaying Halibut Point in all its beauty.

  3. What glorious color. Who doesn't find Fall magnificent.