The Geography of Hope


(Tree ruin – note the wintergreen berries on the right)

This morning I meandered through dried papery leaves, frost bitten sedge grasses, and stepped over fallen birches that crisscross animal paths on the land that I love. Everywhere dying ferns and drifting leaves remind me that the Earth is preparing for her long winter’s sleep in spite of unseasonably warm temperatures and annoying insects.


Tiny evergreen seedlings poke their heads out of the woodland detritus while the mosses retain their various shades from sage to emerald green. I see crimson partridge and wintergreen berries hugging the ground, food for wild turkeys, bears, deer and grouse. In the open lowlands winterberry bushes abound, a feast of scarlet sweets for those that love them. Wild apple trees drip with rose red fruits.


Around the house pendulous red honeysuckle seeds capture my attention. A bevy of migrating robins, at least two-dozen, perch in my crabapple trees feasting on brilliant red fruits. As the robins regard me with white ringed eyes I am suddenly struck by the thought of how much the color red defines a New England fall. On wind protected logging roads scarlet leaves still cling to some tired red maples. Fire on the mountain is more than metaphor or a descriptive phrase. It is also the color that marks the end of the growing season and for many peoples, the end of the year… The flames of autumn precede winter white.


For me this pigment holds both ambivalence and poignancy. Red is the color of blood. It is often the hue used to evoke rage, suffering, and sorrows of the heart. The other side of red is devoted to the joyful aspect of love – the capacity to love and be loved. Together these two create a whole helping me to understand why I am so affected by this color. On a personal level I am living both sides of red.


While examining diminutive plants emerging out of an old tree stump, one that includes wintergreen berries I am startled by a second insight. The flashes of red berries on this tree ruin, the forest floor, the ripe berries and fruits on living trees, the scattering of scarlet leaves also bring me to the edge of hope, for red is also the color of rebirth. It is the color that Nature uses to remind us that as she falls asleep, the seeds of the future will be planted among her roots.


(author walking up an old logging road where the leaves are still full of color)