It’s been unseasonably warm here lately. Tuesday, it was nearly 65°F (though it promises to get colder by this weekend). I can’t say I’m really happy with such a warm December, but it was a good time to go back to the fancy swamp to see what changes the turning seasons have brought.
A walk in the woods is a good way to clear your head. At the very least, it was a good way to pull me out of myself, to make me focus on bigger things — nowhere is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth more apparent than here. It was hard, to be honest, to see the beautiful, verdant-green-and-vibrant-pink lotuses all yellowed and bent, their once-lush leaves curled, emaciated skeletons of themselves. Even amidst all of this, though, there is hope in the hunched-over stems. Every drooping pod carries its precious payload of lotus seeds, and, as they bend to kiss the surface of the water, they drop them into the mud. Next summer, the marsh will be alive again.
The air was strangely quiet. Strange, at least, if you’re used to being there in summer when there’s a chorus of birds and insects to greet you. Here, there was nothing but the wind rattling the dry leaves to cover the distant, oceanic roar of traffic. Since it was a Tuesday afternoon, there wasn’t even the sound of conversation.
My significant other and I walked along in this relative stillness, marveling at the places capricious autumn’s hand had painted orange and brown, right next to the places it had allowed to continue flourishing in brilliant emerald green. On trees who had completely shed their leaves, great green bursts of common greenshield lichen clung to them like brooches. With the leaves gone, there is more sunlight for these strange, not-quite-plant things, and their broad bodies spread and grow across the cracked gray bark.
And then I saw a bald cypress, and lost. my. shit.
I love cypress trees. I really, really do. I’ve had a weird fascination with them ever since I read about cypress knees — those weird, wonderful, mysterious things that are the bane of lost travelers and lawnmowers alike. I know they’re just roots, and there are parts of the south where they’re more “annoyance” than “mystery,” but I love them.
“HOLD UP,” I shouted excited to my significant other, who was standing about six inches from me, “KNEES!”
“Wh–,” was about all he managed to get out before I was on the ground, scrabbling around in dropped cypress needles for a good angle.
They were tiny knees, but knees nonetheless. Maybe some day they’ll be large enough to terrify lost travelers in the dark with, but I doubt it (the marsh closes at sunset, anyhow, which drastically cuts down on the number of wayward wanderers). Now I have my own cypress knees — the knees of my jeans, stained green with moss and smelling strongly of crushed cypress needles. I felt a bit silly afterward (what grown woman walks around with grass-stained pants?), but I found a small cypress tree to be my friend so I don’t really care that much.
How has your autumn been treating you?