Autumn musings

The middle of November in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I live, is just past the peak of the fall foliage season. So I went out this morning for the start of the annual fall ritual of raking pine straw from my back yard -- a seemingly endless task, as every time it rains or the wind blows, thousands more pine needles rain down over my lawn, from the handful of 40-50 foot tall pine trees at the back of my property. And once the pine needles land, they don't blow away, either, they just lie there until someone comes along to rake them up.

In the course of this yard work, I started thinking about some of the beautiful descriptions of the seasonal foliage in the OUTLANDER books. And that inspired me to go looking for some pictures to share with you.

For example:

Autumn in the Scottish Highlands
The sun was coming down the sky, but hadn't yet reached the row of pines that topped the ridge on the west side of Lallybroch. It was still late afternoon, and the world glowed with the colors of late autumn.
The fallen beechmast was cool and slippery under me, but a good many leaves still clung, yellowed and curling, to the tree above. I leaned back against the smooth-barked trunk and closed my eyes, dimming the bright glare of ripe barley fields to a dark red glow behind my eyelids.
(From Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 31 ("Mail Call"). Copyright ©1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Fall Foliage in the North Carolina Mountains
I looked up to find Jamie leaning against a tree on the other side of the streamlet. The bold colors of his dress tartan and white linen sark stood out bright against the faded autumn foliage; face and hair, though, made him look like some denizen of the wood, all bronze and auburn, with the wind stirring his hair so the free ends danced like the scarlet maple leaves above.
(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1 ("Happy the Bride the Sun Shines On"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

We climbed a granite ledge, thick with moss and lichen, wet with the omnipresent flow of water, then followed the path of a descending freshet, brushing aside long grass that pulled at our legs, dodging the drooping branches of mountain laurel and the thick-leaved rhododendrons.

Wonders sprang up by my feet, small orchids and brilliant fungi, trembling and shiny as jellies, shimmering red and black on fallen tree trunks. Dragonflies hung over the water, jewels immobile in the air, vanishing in mist.
(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright © 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.
This quote is from one of my all-time favorite chapters in the whole series, the scene where Jamie and Claire discover the site of Fraser's Ridge. I love the imagery Diana uses here. These tiny details, so beautifully expressed, are the sort of thing you miss completely if you skim through the books, or read too fast. (Both of which I freely admit to doing the first few times I read the series -- mea culpa. <g>)
Before you ask: No, I didn't take these photos! (Well, except for the first one, which is indeed a picture of my back yard <g>, as it looked this morning.) Aren't they gorgeous, though?


Phelisha said...

Aahh. The wonders of technology. That I can sit at my office chair and view autumn in the Scottish Highlands. Thanks for posting Karen. Can't help but feel a bit melancholy.

Karen Henry said...


You want to know the ironic part? The day after I posted this, the area where I live went into a cold snap, and we've been having temperatures all week much more typical of January than November. Even had a few flurries yesterday. I'm definitely not ready for winter just yet!


Phelisha said...

Karen, living in the mild southwest, my family and I are pretty spoiled when it comes to the weather. My daughter and I were just commenting now as we were headed to a "school success" night at how cold the evening was, and it's not even winter yet. I'm with you. Not ready for winter!

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