Still Learning To See


“If it was any closer, it would bite you!” was something I heard from my mom on occasion. I also credit her with helping me develop my seeing, including when it was right in front of me, and even if I am definitely still learning all these years later. She was an inspiration who loved to look out the window while working at her desk, and at the flowers in her “garden of Eden” as we called that rough and tumble little in-between patch of ground she loved. She marveled looking up at the heavens—not just the stars—especially with her son-in-law, an astronomer; she’d haul us all out on the lawn on blankets for meteor showers and then the next day we might look with amazement at what the insides of a fish we’d just caught looked like. All her seeing was rooted, I’m sure, in a fundamental belief that the world had room for both humans and beauty, that in fact the beauty of the world kept us in touch with our humanity.

This past week, as the leaves have been coming down, I’ve enjoyed remembering the smells, sounds and sights of Fall, many of which take me back to my childhood. I delight in the many different patterns the leaves of various trees make as they fall, each a color and shape and time of their own. It has been a week of looking up at the bare branches and falling leaves and down at these mosaics on the ground. One of the most stunning Fall events is the time of leaf falling for the Gingko trees—typically all in magnificent morning golden carpet.

The leaves, of course, now no longer useful to the tree as solar collectors, quickly begin to decompose to feed both the tree and the surrounding, complex web of life readying itself for next Spring. That is just one more reason to leave them where they fall or in piles nearby.

The needles of Tamarack pile up and will continue to fall for several weeks, so different from the leaves of hardwoods, but also a treasure trove of beauty and nutrients.

Catalpa leaves as large as the pages of a book begin their journey back, the no longer used veins changing with stunning beauty. Their fruiting bean-like seed pods remain all winter, a reminder between the seasons.

And hidden in some of the leaves are acorns, samara, and fruits of various kinds, including those of Ginkgo. These have gotten a bad rap but only because they go untended and rot and smell pretty “interesting.” I carefully pick them up from under the tree in our yard—the only female in town—and process them for a friend who enjoys eating the seeds. The squirrels too devour them, perhaps knowing things we’ve long forgotten.

Tomorrow morning early, I’ll take time to again look up—at the Lunar eclipse—and think of and thank my mother for the seeds she long ago planted and nourished in me in my journey to see life.

This entry was published on November 7, 2022 at 9:52 am and is filed under Fall colors, John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Leaves, Patterns, Photograph, Trees, Vermont, Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

10 thoughts on “Seeing

  1. Dianne Shullenberger on said:

    This is a wonderful collection of leaf carpets. Each tree is displaying its artwork and you captured them. Thank you. Dianne

    • Thanks. You know all about that sort of thing!

    • Hello!

      I stumbled across your blog while looking at pictures of trees. It made me very happy and I wanted to let you know 🙂 I’m a painter, writer, and mystic, but sometimes I spend too much time in my studio instead of enjoying the world around me. Thanks for the reminder today.


      • Yes, it is so easy to stay inside looking out. I think for me, especially lately, it is my way of trying to control life. Silly and I work on just letting myself, instead, be drawn outside where it all happens. Thanks for your note and dig back into my past blog and my website as I have many images of trees!

  2. Dale Dailey on said:

    Your Mama trained you well.

  3. Howdy. You use the word “mosaic” to describe leaves on the ground. I’d never thought of it that way, and I have to say you’re right on the money. Autumn is my favorite time of year. Neil S.

  4. Elaine VonRosenstiel on said:

    John, lovely to get these photos and your thoughts on “seeing” as an antidote to all the campaign solicitations crowding my inbox. Thank you for reminding me what November is really about. Elaine

    Sent from my iPhone


    • You are very welcome. I was just talking with a friend about all the bad news these days and I said it we had a newspaper with all the good news from even one day, it would be a foot thick or more—it is important to never forget that, right?! Thanks for visiting and come back again.

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