The weather in recent days has gifted me with enough incentive to get up earlier than usual in the morning. As a night owl, I’ve never been an ardent fan of Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, and early to rise” no matter how many promises of wealth come with it.
What really gets me going early in the morning – and by that, I mean, before the sun touches the horizon – is Henry David Thoreau’s words in “Walden.” I specifically refer to the last three lines in the book which chronicled his “two years and two months” living alone “in the woods on the shore of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts” where he built himself a small utilitarian house.
He wrote: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”
I can see a lot of days dawning for me the rest of the week and on to the next from the weather forecasts I’m hearing from the National Weather Service. From my own personal observation derived from years of trying to photographically chronicle the sights and sounds of autumn in the valley, fall 2011 is turning out to be a mild one. By that, I mean not too wet from heavy rainfall and stormy weather. At least, up to this point of the season. While there had been rain showers in recent days, they were not devastating or stormy enough to completely remove the leaves from the trees, thereby prolonging the wonderful world of fall foliage in the valley. That’s a blessing for photographers (including me) who love to capture the grandeur of the fall season in the area, especially the vibrant hues produced by the ginkgo trees, the liquidambars, the Chinese pistache and other plant varieties that explode in colorful profusion at this time of the year. To take advantage of these photogenic scenes, simply take a windshield tour around town during the days when Mother Nature delays the storm season a bit, and you will be treated to a visual treat. When you do, and you are a photographer at heart – a professional, an amateur, or a shutterbug – don’t leave home without your camera. Some may opt for a cell phone camera, or even a camcorder if they plan to share their photographic creations later on with family and friends on YouTube.
As many seasoned photographers already know, early morning or late in the afternoon are the best times of the day to capture nature at its best. And this is where Thoreau’s words often come to haunt me, when the days dawned and I was fast asleep.
But in the last few days, with the words of Thoreau dancing in my head, I’ve awakened to the sound of birds chirping outside which was my signal for getting my camera equipment ready for some serious avian photography and for some interesting observations, too. I’ve learned that birds are creatures of habit. As early as six o’clock in the morning, they are already busy foraging for food. That’s their schedule. After a few hours’ lull, they are back around 10 or 11 o’clock for another feeding round. Why do we call them bird brains, by the way, when they feed themselves without relying on anybody to spoon-feed them? I’ve watched and observed blue jays carry acorns and almonds with shells in their long, strong beaks, set them down on a tree branch or iron railing and pound them with their pointy eating appendages until the shells break to reveal the nutritious food inside that they love to eat. I’ve also seen crows clutching large walnuts – shell and all – in their beaks as they fly up high in the and then drop the shell-encased nuts to the ground. In the process, the shells break and that’s when they swoop down to the ground and treat themselves to the nutritious treat.
I’m looking forward to more days dawning for me the rest of the fall season. I’m thankful that, according to the weather forecast from the National Weather Service, there are a few more opportune days for watching and photographing fall foliage and other autumn scenes coming up ahead. Yes, there will be showers on Thanksgiving Day, but interspersed in between will be some mostly sunny skies. It’s a good time of the year to continue thinking of Thoreau.