Clyde: Ode to return of fall

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 24, 2021

By Clyde

Behold! The colors of fall.

“With what glory comes and goes the year! The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer, kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life within the solemn woods of ash.”

Who else but Longfellow?

We’ve seen red, and now comes orange. Too soon, the wally worlds drag out the plastic Halloween and Christmas. Pumpkin spice everything hits the shelves. 

Orange is hard to mix and impossible to rhyme. Too many garish and artificial leaves and fake gourds, but real pumpkins are mellow, intensified by the iridescent dew of October, the eighth month. Nothing is more brilliant than sunlight on a Norway maple or the golden yellow ginkos on South Main against an azure sky. 

From Genesis 37:3, “And Israel loved Joseph more than all his children and he made him a coat of many colours.”

God’s brushwork, like paint, overs the earth each year about this time. Even the word “pumpkin,” “pumpion” from French, literally means cooked by the sun and not eaten until ripe and mellow. 

To say orange-reddish yellow, use “naranja” in Spanish. More French. Spelled ocher or ochre was earthly clay used as a pigment. Even the Henderson Law Office is primed orchred.

A battle near Magenta, Italy, in 1859 gave us the name of that fuchsia hue. But everyone’s favorite from the bright red madder plant root that exudes a rich and warm color is C14H8O4 — Alizarin Crimson. 

We would all be more overweight if food matched the color of Cabernet Sauvignon. “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup, when it moveth itself right … I will seek it yet again.” Proverbs 23:31ff.

Italian artists — men, like all famous ones — gave us Naples yellow, the shade of parchment, and burnt sienna for the dirt from the coastal town. All warm colors are easy to love and live with. With all the choices, how can anyone pick Ikea grey and cool neon white to copy the warmth of Grandma’s fireplace and colorful afghan quilts?

Poets try to recite about falling leaves, but words fail at the sight of a single Japanese maple leaf on a mossy carpet. Musicians try to sing about the end of summer, but the soft rustle of willow oak whirligig leaves falling in the rain is music to our ears. 

Mixing colors can get muddy. Artists’ palettes don’t start out with olive drab (O.D.), or rusty dirty brown, but paired against the right color, sepia and umber — both raw and burnt — can be beautiful. 

What Yankee committee decided what colors were going to be complimentary? The color wheel was just another bright idea by, you guessed it, Sir Issac Newton. In art class, we saw opposite colors by painting a green, black, and orange flag and staring at it under a spotlight. We saw the light of “the sensation resulting from stimulation of the retina of the eye by lightwaves of certain lengths on the cones.”

Probably the worst lesson was the endless, come-at-able coloring books and the mindless, paint-by-number on cardboard with no shading or texture. Watching Bob Ross on television create “happy little trees” only served to put you to sleep. No effort on your part. 

So go out there al fresco and enjoy the COVID-free eos of unframed art at no expense, on your own time, where to see it. In your own backyard or the beautiful vistas at John Dunn’s Mountain or Joseph Kerr’s Mill. Look for the harbinger of leaf tips turning toward taupe. Get lost in the windowless wonder of a chameleon’s habitat and join the writing spider weaving her web of life. Spread the colorful warmth of friends before it’s too late to go back to the days of yesterday’s harsh summer. Who would want that?

Quickly please, come again, Fall. 

Clyde is an artist who lives in Salisbury.