Such Beautiful Decay

On Sunday we took what was, for us, a very long hike in the woods with the kids. Though I have seen some younger than my own up there, there is pretty much no way we could haul ours up Mount Nittany. The chorus of “Up me, Papa!” would be never-ending. For now, anyway. But we have woods nearby, so we headed out toward the park and what Rudy calls “The tunnel to the forest.” We armed both kids and ourselves with plastic bags for picking up garbage along the way. Josephine the Caretaker was glad to be helping “fix Mother Earth’s boo-boos.”

It was a perfect, pristine fall day with a punctuating breeze. Rudy and Paul generally forged ahead while Josie and I slow-poked behind. Every now and then Rudy would yell back, “Mama, you HAVE to see this!” and I’d scramble to catch up so he could show me some moss or mushrooms on a downed tree. While we walked, Jose and I recited one of her favorite books, We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one! What a beautiful day! We’re not scared. Uh-oh, a forest… I didn’t really expect to see any bears off the bike trail near Sunset Park, but it’s thrilling to know they’re not too far away, either. We had fun.

I have always found great beauty in the decay of Autumn. I don’t mean that in a particularly poetic or symbolic way (the cycle of life, etc.), but rather purely aesthetically. Something about the fragility of organic matter (really, not metaphor), the muted colors, the absence of moisture that defines the edges of things, letting me see its insides…so beautiful. And often strange, too. Here’s a picture I took a few years ago at this time of a plant at the marsh.In a sense I find it terrifying. But also delicate and compelling. Full of potential.

In the woods on Sunday I gathered as we walked. Ultimately we came out of the trees into–to my great delight–a field of milkweed pods behind the arboretum. I have always loved the look of milkweed gone to seed. The enthusiastic rupturing, all that brilliant, soft silk. There’s probably more metaphor in here than I am excavating (of course there is; there always is), but today, I just want to share some pretty.

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