July 7, 2011

A Walk in the Woods: The Quality of Light

Each time I go for my walk, I cross my back field, where I've beaten a path through the high grass, and enter the woods through a gap in the stone wall. In that brief moment, I cross from one habitat to another and am immediately aware of a change of air, of temperature, of scent, and of light. I live amid open fields, so the light is unobstructed and flows directly over ground and object, elucidating their forms. From that vantage point, the world is an orderly place.

In the woods order is dissolved in shifting splashes of light. There is gloom in spots and there is sparkle. Leaves and branches catch light and then release it, making space itself seem uncertain as all is caught in a tangle of bright and dark.

Reflections on water, running or still, add another layer of confusion to the layers of space, and another form of beauty.

The light finds its way through this conifer woods, with trunks standing dark and tall in front of textured light in the distance. Light falling on the needle covered ground is warm and rich, making this one of my favorite spots.

The bright blue plastic of maple sugaring line adds a foreign note to the greens and browns of the woods, but lovely in bright sun nonetheless, don't you think?


  1. Altoon, in 1952 my father build a round house in the forest on the shore of Lake Ontario outside Rochester, NY. It had three huge trees growing through holes left in the wide overhang of it's flat roof. It was a forest not quite as dense as yours but still pretty darned dark in the leafy months. Your photos and sentences took me back all those years ago. Thanks.

  2. That sounds very beautiful, Philip, and how sensitive of your father to have incorporated trees into the design of the house. I'm glad this post brought back memories.

  3. It's true, space and light get very complex when you enter the forest...I hadn't thought of it that way. I like looking at the vegetation in different kinds of forests, and how they are often determined by the light. For instance: south of here, like in the Hudson Valley, where woods are overwhelmingly hardwoods, there's much more of an understory of shrubs and vines that we see here in the north, with all of our dense-shading conifers. I feel about to be strangled sometimes in those woods!

  4. Susan, it's been years since I was in a forest in another part of the country. It will certainly be interesting to notice the differences in growth, and light, if I ever get a chance to see one.

  5. magical. and your writing brings out the movement of stillness.

  6. thank you, rappel. I love the phrase "movement of stillness".