Today I photographed stumps and fallen leaves, the small hollows of trees where fungi made their home, looked out over sand along the edges of the Mississippi, where trees with gnarled roots woven together toppled sideways and yet were still living, still sporting green along the hills above the beach. It was quiet and cool where I walked beneath the canopy of leaves, everything hushed except some birds and insect hum, bees buzzing along the interiors of flowers, their occasional yellow dotting the otherwise green color dominating the path’s edges.
I photographed the fallen leaves, the ones yellow, brown, or red, marked with spots, photographed too the slant of light coming through trees, dappling leaves and walkways and tree limbs with light, photographed the similar but not symmetrical brown planes of bark snaking their way up the sides of trees. I thought about the light, and the way it moved among the leaves as if dancing, as if speaking, as if sometimes even singing.
And I thought too about the man who taught me of this place, tried to reconcile its beauty with his now unending silence. How his silence was something of pain; how the silence of the forest was something otherwise—how here it wasn’t his silence but the sounds of my own body that were the loudest, my breathing, my footfalls on dry leaves and small sticks, the brush of my arm against my side, the brush of my palms against those leaves, the push of my fingertips to click the camera’s shutter. His silence was something of pain, but this silence was instead something beautiful. This silence was all words I chose not to speak instead of words that were never heard. This silence was all leaves and wind-lack and letting go.
It was all letting go. Like the leaves do, a little at a time, slowly, loving the thing they leave but no longer fighting nature. Letting the wind catch them and shuttle them off down the path. Starting to move on.