|Larches get a lot of the glory this time of year, but I think there's something to appreciate about late-autumn cottonwood leaves against a blue sky...|
Each time we set foot outdoors is an opportunity to see the world around us in a new way. When I'm hiking, there's usually one thing that captures my attention, one thing that I really notice and focus on for the duration of the hike, whether by accident or on purpose. Sometimes it's the size of venerable old growth trees, sometimes it's the delicate little flowers blooming in springtime, sometimes it's the birds chattering in the brush just out of sight alongside the trail, sometimes it's trilliums, sometimes it's rain.
During my hike in the Redmond Watershed Preserve the day after Thanksgiving, it was the cottonwood leaves. Whether clinging to the uppermost branches and glowing against the brilliant blue sky, or carpeting the trail beneath my feet with their golden, heart-shaped forms, these leaves were by far the subject of most of my photos from this outdoor excursion. I was drawn to their cheerful yellow-gold warmth - the color of the autumn sunshine itself - shining in the midst of a shadowy forest already feeling the cold grip of the coming winter, with all of the associated shades of brown and decay.
This experience was a good reminder that during those times in our lives where things aren't going right and there seems little to be grateful for, when beauty is scarce and hope has faded, you can still find glimmering bits of sunshine amid the shadows.