George Ellison, our favorite NC mountain naturalist and columnist for the Asheville Citizen Times, this season compiled lines from previous columns that in one way or another celebrate Winter: Season of Light.
- “After summer’s haze and the soft tones of autumn, we’re confronted not with the gloom we tend to anticipate but with a clarity that sharpens our senses. Above all, it’s the season when the mountains shimmer with light.
- Now is the time to keep the home fires burning.
- Pines on the far ridgeline stand cleanly etched against the pale blue sky.
- Each evening when we go home the sun is setting behind the ridge that encloses the cove. The forest on the ridge consists of a dense stand of oak and hickory. Many of the oaks are festooned with globular clusters of mistletoe. When the dying light strikes them just so at about 5:30 pm, they gleam like ornaments. It’s not difficult at that moment to comprehend why mistletoe has for so long been a green emblem of renewal.
- Even in winter stones in the creekbed will speak to you quite clearly in praise of water.
- In winter when the trees are not shrouded with leaves you can see the brown path darting here and there high above you seeking the gap in t he ridge.
- Have you ever noticed how much closer the mountains you see year-round are in winter? You could almost reach out and touch them. come spring and they will recede.
- After a lifetime of working with paint, Elizabeth (Ellison’s artist wife) has a keen sense of the colors viewed in a natural landscape. For her, there is almost no pure white light – not even in winter.
“Look”, she will say to me,”at the lavender shadows on that far mountainside. The clouds are reflecting the setting sun back down in the valley.” I look and suddenly I see it, too, through her eyes.
- Perhaps the most characteristic sounds of winter are those created by wind…..’ The soft rustling movements of air passing through a field, or the monotonous scraping of tree limbs against one another.
- At times you can quite literally hear a patch of woodlands softly roaring in the winter wind. The poet Robert Burns remarked on this effect in one of his letter. “There is scarcely any earthly object gives me more pleasure than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood on a cloudy winter day, and hear the stormy wind howling among the trees, and raving over the plain. It is my best season of devotion.”
- In winter we see the outlines and edges of things more clearly. Twigs and branches are crosshatched against the sky with lines as fine as the pen strokes in a line drawing. Posts, stakes, and trellis wires left standing in the garden become fine ornaments to be appreciated in their own right. In this light our world becomes more distance, more exhilarating. Winter scales life down to bare essentials. Textures and singularities stand out. It’s the time for truly seeing things as they are, for paying closer attention to the world about us while we can…”
SOURCE: George Ellison & Elizabeth Ellison for the Asheville Citizen-Times
“Ridge In Winter” – Elizabeth Ellison – Gallery in Bryson City, NC