After a week of rain, I was stir-crazy and grateful for a dry day. I packed my camera and tripod and went out to the woods. Instead of fixating on one subject, I let myself be moved by whatever struck me: colorful leaves on rotting wood, delicate reflections on a pond. A stand of beech trees was infused with a golden glow.
I passed the tall pine where up to 14 Long-eared Owls perch together every winter. As I looked up, I spotted several owls; they’ve started to collect again. But I didn’t take photos. I have some beautiful photos from last year, and I’ve learned since then that, despite their impervious appearance, they are terrified when people gather underneath their tree.
The woods smelled damp, of things decaying and giving birth to new life. In my garden, the fungi aren’t all innocently beautiful. My big old cherry tree has been attacked by Honey Fungus. The tree won’t survive, and I can’t do anything about it. Maybe in a primeval forest, this would be a good thing. But in my garden, it’s a tiny disaster, and I fear the pear tree is next.
There have been large and small disasters this year. The US elections were one, and I fear the poisonous fungus has jumped back over the Atlantic and will attack France next. So much of what is happening is due to ignorance and misinformation.
On my way back to the parking lot, I passed the owl tree again. A young couple was gazing up. She had a camera and was taking photos with a built-in flash. I walked up to her and explained how one can read the owls’ body language and see that they’re scared. And that using the flash won’t help and scares the birds even more. She looked at me helplessly and said, “I use the automatic settings on the camera and don’t know how to turn the flash off.” I smiled at her gently and left, unwilling to deal with this particular brand of ignorance.
Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Some years, I gather with other expats for a celebratory feast. Today I count my blessings in solitude: a fire in the fireplace and some good red wine in the glass. I sold two paintings recently; they will soon wing their way across the Atlantic to a new home, filled with love and appreciation. I even sold a photograph this year, though I never started the photography with a commercial goal in mind.
This morning I looked out into the fields and counted five pheasant males and at least ten hens. Now that is something to feel grateful for! A hunter walked out some hours later, but with glee, I noted that he didn’t find them.
I’m grateful for the small blessings: for the bright autumn leaves, the fire in the fireplace, the few years I have left with my fruit trees, and the pheasants in the field. Happy Thanksgiving to you who celebrate it today.