The haze of a morning fog settled into the trees up the road from our farm along Eimon Ridge the other day, the fog and rising sun switching positions in the sky.
As they crossed, rays rode the light mist to dance through the woodlot’s trees, bringing rustling applause from the remaining audience of October leaves gold, red and orange.
It was another of so many special moments in Wisconsin’s northern Driftless Area – so special that I scolded myself for not having carried a camera with me. I thought momentarily about taking my own advice that I’ve shared with many and take a picture with my eyes and later develop it in words. But that morning, I wasn’t patient enough for the words to come.
Besides, the walk back to the farm to get a camera to carry back to that fall scene would be a little extra exercise I could use.
The process, thankfully, still was under way upon my return. I caught the rays’ darting dance-steps in the trees, and then turned to the valley below, where Timber Creek is reborn with every bubble of the ridge’s springs. There, most of the fog already had passed below the sun, allowing brightness to rock-skip high above Jeff and Beth Larson’s pond and explode with paint-ball battle colors into the treetops poking through the haze.
I was happy with what I saw.
I was happy with what I’d captured with the camera.
I was happy with what I’d captured in my soul.
I hurried back to our farmyard, what I’d seen fighting its way out of me – and maybe even out of the camera – to be shared. It was too much splendor for one being to hold.
Dee, my wife, was the first person with whom I shared, via an e-mail. I think she liked them.
“The fog and the color are great juxtapositions,” she wrote to me.
“Yes,” I replied. “Juxtapositions were what I was seeking.”
They really were good examples of juxtapositions, but I’ll admit that might not be what I was thinking about when my finger pushed the shutter button. The reference reminded me about the day an East Coast university professor told me my book was “an interesting rural sociology study,” when I thought it was a bunch of stories about living in the rural countryside.
It feels good to know about juxtaposition, rural sociology and all that great stuff. Where the fog and the trees were concerned that morning, though, my first thoughts simply were about how striking the scene was: another of nature’s special moments. But when I sat and thought more deeply about what I’d seen, juxtaposition included, my mind shifted to the struggle I’d just witnessed between the sun’s brightness and the fog’s attempt to filter that brightness as their paths crossed.
We in these parts spend plenty of time in such struggles this time of the year, the nature of our natural beings wanting to prepare for semi-hibernation, but our worldly human beings fighting to keep life moving at a brisk pace.
Some of us especially will feel that struggle as we turn our clocks back an hour, to what we’ve been calling standard time. That hour, for some of us, will mean much in getting back into closer-to-natural sleep rhythms. Though I understand the reasons for having daylight savings time, that simple hour keeps me perpetually tired.
During daylight savings time, our clocks are the fog trying to shroud the rising sun. And, like that day on Eimon Ridge, the sun and all its brightness can’t be hidden for long. Some folks might show up at church an hour early when standard time returns, and some cows might be milked a little earlier than normal. But before we know it the sun will again shine onto the tree-tops, right on time by any measure of time.
There are, of course, many more metaphors for that meeting of sun and fog in our rural northern reaches. I’m sure I’ll think of more as I travel the region in coming weeks – me and autumn wending our ways through our coulees.
Sometimes we’ll label what we see as being stunning juxtapositions. Sometimes we’ll simply label what we see as being nature giving us another day of northern Driftless Area art.
— Scott Schultz