September 14, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Uncategorized

The quality of the light is reason enough to want to live in Vermont. Yes it gets dark early in winter, but even then we have the brilliant sparkly light of moon on snow. And the rest of the year offers light changing and sparkling, twinkling and shining like no other place I have ever been. The light in Italy glinting gently off the old terra cotta stones is comparable. Maybe that’s why Italy calls me too.

John and I walked up to our favorite waterfall the other day and my eyes couldn’t decide where to look. The waterfall itself is a three story beauty. The water pours over rocks and around trees that have stood for centuries, balanced now precariously on the edge waiting for the power of the water to change their shape making way for the next row of trees just behind. Listening to that water and feeling its spray on my face has inspired me more than once and cured me of plenty of hurts and moods.

But on this particular morning it was the early fall light dancing through the trees that kept drawing me back. Finally I gave in and lay back on the slanted hillside and just stared at the little leaf shaped bits of golden yellow light pouring through the trees. The leaves tinged way up high with the first bits of fall color danced and bowed to their new partners in the sky. Because on this day I stared at leaves made only of airy light. It was like seeing double; regular green leaf, next to new luminescent leaf of the same shape only made entirely of light tucked into the spaces between. I have always been fascinated by the edges of the world. Dawn and twilight, the sides of mountains, and now these leaves slipping in between their solid cousins, sneaking into the picture along with the light; it all fills up my senses. It was all at once simple and breathtaking. Has it always been up there I wondered. Or was it something special about this almost liquid mountain light of early fall?

Pretty soon our yellow and gold, orange and crimson leaves will be soaking up the light and giving it back to us in a soft glow that helps us prepare for the coming winter. My house has 57 windows and surrounded as it is by Norway and Sugar Maples, we will be awash in the colors of the season. Our house glows this time of year almost until Thanksgiving with the warm terra cotta and rosy tinted hues of the world outside. The sunlight shines through and it is like someone has draped a lacey scarf over our house and stage lighted it with a warm gently orangery backdrop. Every room will be bathed int he light from the autumnal trees and the sun.

And now there is this new September light that I hadn’t noticed before. It probably isn’t very new. The leaves preparing for their fall show have turned every so slightly inward. That turning opens these little leaf shaped spaces up high and for a time we have this wonderful play of real leaves next to shapes just as clearly leaf, only filled with the colors of sun and sky. I have clearly spent too much time looking down. This show has likely been happening up there over my head for all of the five years I have been living amongst these forests in these high old hills. When we first came my friend Patricia teased me that all of my letters talked about the buttermilk skies. I remember wondering where all this gentle light was coming from. It was like when you get a new pair of really good sunglasses that a really good pair of sunglasses subtly magnify and enhance everything. I was looking up and around in utter joy and awe those first few months. Then somewhere along the way I made up so new problems, found a bunch of captivating new worries and started looking down way too much. I hated all the Meineke Muffler shops that seemed to define my view of our old life in the city. What good is having all this beauty if my eyes are cast down toward the mud and fallen pine needles? I need to look up more. I wonder what else is up there?

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