The bowl of zinnias decorated our dining room table—red or orange or yellow parasols that seemed to reflect the sun. I pulled out my watercolors but soon realized that there was no way I could outdo Nature.
Arranged in a sky-blue bowl
Brought sun’s heat indoors.
Nature paints summer blazing bright, using the most extravagant colors in her palette. The red, pink and purple cones of the crepe myrtles, the flame of cannas, sunflowers with their great, dark hearts—everything that blooms or grows around us is scorching hot to the senses.
Such a difference from early spring, with its tender pastels! Back then there were dogwoods peering self-consciously from woodlands before turning to milky elegance. There were cherry and apricot and plum blossoms and the miracle of first leaves. Do you love the first leaves of spring as much as I do? They are a color which we never see again throughout the whole year, a hopeful, delicate green. As spring deepens there come tulips and violets and azalea, and there are always the redbuds… but at first Nature paints spring with a gentle palette.
Then summer arrives with all its bang and bluster. The creeks dry under a scorching sun, and the land gasps for shade and rain. Neither of them seem to be in great supply, these days, and that pleases the cicadas to no end. As finite as a summer breeze, these vociferous insects’ clamor is as brash and as hectic as the season itself.
Autumn’s approach is more measured. The innocence of spring has been burned away by summer’s heat and the trees are weary. As a reward for staying the course, they are brushed with a mature brilliance: magenta, red, gold and bronze.
Nature keeps things hopping during the fall. Squirrels scamper about hiding their acorns while destroying my garden in the process. Pumpkins decorate state fairs. The October moon glows like a golden coin in a sky filled with migrating fowl, and crickets accompany this exodus with noisy ragtime.
Of all autumn’s spectrum, I love yellow the best, for it seems to reflect a sun that has turned mellow and kindly. When I stand under a sun-dazzled tree and look up into branches laden with gold, its life force seems to flow strong and sure. The days of warmth and color are coming to an end, but not yet… not quite yet!
Then here comes winter, and Nature brings out a neutral palette. Skies favor a chilly gray. Much of the woodlands lie bare, and fields have gone to sere. Those songbirds that have not migrated south come more often to the feeder, and the squirrels are trying to remember where they buried their acorns. Snow comes with a wind that has no kindness in it, yet even now Nature offers counterpoint: nandina and holly berries sport their jaunty reds, the male cardinals fairly glow against the snow, and the evergreens bristle with tough, dark green.
Bright red cardinal
At snow-encrusted feeder…
Cold wind from the north.
Winter’s colors may be stark, but already deep in the frost-frozen earth seeds have begun to stir, and under a coverlet of ice frogs rest and dream. They know with an ancient wisdom that in time the snow will melt, the winds will lose their bite, and Nature will once again bring out her gentlest paints to recreate the first leaves of spring.