Amateur Naturalist: Beauty of autumn sunlight creates new energy

Posted Oct. 22, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 25, 2011, at 7:06 p.m.


From mid-September to mid-October hereabouts, sunlight slants in through birches, oaks and pines at angles unseen in any other time of year. In late afternoon the scarlet sumac and goldenrod skeletons and even stands of horseweed radiate energy that practically sets the day on fire. The angle of the sunlight is prying something loose. The dry brown stalks and inflorescences of grass are illuminated as if from inside.

It takes superhuman patience to keep a scientific eye.

The maples, Thoreau observed, are “the most beautiful of all tangible things.” Their red leaves, and the copper beech leaves, purple grasses and burst milkweed pods become prisms of things unseen, directing otherwise invisible glints of divinity onto your retina and transforming them there, right in the same angle where the sea and sun vanish into each other. In the crystal clear autumn sunlight, the intangible is as near to tangible as it can get and not kill you.

Dana Wilde’s collection of Amateur Naturalist and other writings, “The Other End of the Driveway,” is available electronically and in paperback