Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Quickened Pace of Autumn

There's a new quality to the familiar terrain of Halibut Point, evident in the thinner air, shortened days, and all the transformed bits of decor. It's a shift from andante to allegro. The easy-going summer days have sobered into fall effecting a gradual change of pace on visitors, from carefree shirtsleeve strolls to brisk, focused 'constitutionals.' We're stepping lively until we see something arresting.

Catkins, Gray birch
Tree leaves have finished masterminding their services to the plant. After engineering the seed cycle they depart with a colorful flourish.

Yellow-rumped warbler
The migrant birds that passed through in spring mating array come back wearing subdued, sensible plumage. Warblers weighing less than half an ounce hurry south across the continent.


All summer prolific greens covered the landscape. Now idiosyncrasies stand forth as plants disrobe and the diminished sun lights their surfaces experimentally.

American copper

A late-season butterfly settles on a warm granite outcropping. Not a migrator, it is on the verge of finishing its life cycle.

Showy goldenrod

Goldenrod emblazoned the ledge for the last of the pollen-eaters.

Slate-colored junco

The reappearance of juncos implies imminent winter. Their blue-grayness and pink bills relieve fading earth tones in the meadows. White tail feathers spark their take-offs.

Slaty colors in the ocean and sky complicate November with moods of grand inhospitality. The coastline often wraps itself in primal power.

Turbulent surf resolves into capillary froth. Tidelets explore crevices and rearrange themselves in ceaseless confections.

Black-bellied plover
Shorebirds regard the surf ambivalently. Waves stir up morsels to eat, thank  you, as they spread boisterously over the rocks.

Cranberries mature in a damp mining excavation overlooking the sea.

White oak
Wind ripples the surface of the great quarry into speckled constellations.


The wind accepts cattail progeny for dispersal across the quarry, and to distant wetlands.

Beaver industry

A beaver strengthens his abode and larder for the comfort of life beneath winter ice.

Drill marks and black cherry

Here and there vignettes of time contrast human history with natural passages.


Water seepage through the fractured ledge sustains a deciduous holly in a ravine on the quarry cliff. Falling leaves are beginning to reveal the berried twigs popular in Christmas decorations. Autumn presents a prettier cameo while the fruit and foliage are both present. 

The cooler, drier air clarifies subtleties on the granite walls across the water. When snow comes to blanket the quarry sunlight will bounce upward to model new colors and shadows. Then the charms of the winter will draw visitors with warmer clothes and an even quicker step than autumn.


  1. I was just there a few hours ago, feeling SOMETHING.....and now, to read your exquisite description, I know what that something was! Thank you, as always.

  2. Martin, you've given us, as always, astoundingly beautiful images and text. I meant to tell you before that your gifts sometimes move me to tears. Thank you.