The Embers Burst Into Flames

Article and photos by Joe Mish

Blaze orange leaves adorn this local black oak. Nature’s seasonal clock has struck 10, autumn has arrived as October takes out a full page ad to showcase its array of brilliant color.

The hot breath of August turns September mornings into a smoldering mist as embers of summer’s end burst into an explosion of October color.  

The early morning autumn mists, so prominent along the rivers and brooks that flow gently across the landscape, stir the imagination to reach back in time to a place where magic was the accepted answer to the wonders of nature. 

Dark green leaves turning to fluorescent orange is the stuff of wonderment. The purpose of which is to generate thought and build creative answers to perplexing questions. It is as if nature is guiding human evolution to higher intelligence by flashing colorful prompts to articulate a creative response. Creativity is the foundation of knowledge and its application. A warm up exercise for the immersion into disciplined technology, ruled by logic and reason. 

The heavy white mist, rising from the river, overflows the pastures, providing a blank slate, into which the light of dawn infuses clouds of ever-changing color. A band of intense pastels emerge from the night and rest upon the horizon to await the sun’s arrival. The first color to appear is a layer of fireball red which cools to an orange glaze, so intense, it appears the world is on fire. Purple streaks fading to rose, pink and salmon support layers of golden yellow, chartreuse and sulfur. This celestial palette, stirred by the rushing wind, spurred on by the sun’s heat clashing with the night’s cool air, disperses the colors to tint the rising river mist.

The predawn light begins to color the rising mist along the South Branch

The early morning light show vanishes into thin air as the sun rises to its zenith above earth. Brilliant blue sky, unmarked by clouds, stand in contrast to the colorful October foliage. Late afternoon herds of fluffy white clouds appear animated as their structures are constantly reshaped by the whim of the wind.  Each bold cloud, composed of delineated puffs of white, bordered by shades of gray, compel interpretation as they resemble earthbound faces, animals and objects. Again, a playground for the imagination to run wild, compliment of autumn weather. It is easy to understand how humans used the sky to interpret messages from the beyond, as true in paleolithic times as it is today. Playing with clouds is to share the exact same emotion and interpretive conclusions as long-gone ancestors. The clouds become a portal in that way, piercing the impenetrable wall of time to prompt creative interpretation, likely more aligned than different.

Fluffy white clouds invite the viewer to ride the sea of imagination.

It is the colorful autumn foliage which garnishes the late day clouds and dramatic morning river mists of October. At a distance, woodlands appear as a single undulating blanket, woven with colorful threads, showing irregular swatches of yellow, green and scarlet. Viewed as a time lapse, the colors expand southward, while the northern edge reverts to earth tones of grayish brown as if consumed while on the run, from the hungry wolves of winter. 

Brilliant, blaze orange oak leaves defy imagination in their intensity, and stand in bold contrast to the conservative green, brown and gray tones that dominate the landscape. Like a flash of fire, its sight demands our absolute attention as sure as the flash of a lightning bolt. In that long moment of awe, imagination, held in abeyance by reality, rushes in to disrupt the continuity of time.  

October is totally dedicated to autumn and all its glorious color, a time when golden mists and billowy white clouds mark the transition between summer and winter; a perfect agreement between two polar opposites.  

The trail of Octobers past, is a familiar well-worn path through time, lit with the brilliance of golden leaves, beckoning the traveler deeper into a world of timeless beauty.

The trail of Octobers past, is a familiar well worn path through time, lit with the brilliance of golden leaves, beckoning the traveler deeper into a world of timeless beauty.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact