or A Theme and Variations
Truth be told, by this time of year we are growing weary of the color brown. Our native landscape has enough fluff, tufts, stalks, and bristles that its textures are wonderfully rich, but the palette is all but monochrome. It is a theme (brown) and variations (golden brown, bronze, buff, khaki, sepia, fawn, ecru, camel, tan, chestnut, cinnamon, tawny, beige...), and the problem with a theme and variations is that it tends to get predictable after a while.
Rio Grande Nature Center here in town over the Martin Luther King holiday. The photos struck me as drab and uninspired, as if I had left the salt out of them. Except for the gorgeous New Mexico sky, all the colors are—not to put too fine a point on it—brown. Shades of brown, sure; variations of brown, yes; but when all is said and done, they are the same old brown, repeated from the top one more time.
When I was actually standing at the wetlands' edge, though, or meandering through the bosque, or kneeling at the river bank to dangle a stick in the water, the experience was anything but drab and uninspired. The colors were just as brown, but they weren't flat and two-dimensional. Admittedly, I have a bad habit of taking pictures in the middle of the day, rather than at sunrise or sunset when the light is kinder, and a photograph can't possibly capture the purr of the sandhill cranes from the cornfield, or the irritated exclamations of ducks, or the clatter of wind in the dried cottonwood leaves—all the things that make an experience a feast. But I think what's really missing is the shimmer.
Light is another kind of theme and variations here—so many things reflect or refract it. It shimmers, gleams, glows, flashes, sparkles, glints, glitters, glares, dances, flickers, twinkles, scintillates... In winter it plays a counterpoint with the variations on brown in ways that make all those tawny colors come alive. The undersides of the cottonwood leaves twinkle in the sunshine on a windy day, the fallen ones gleam on the path through the bosque. The faint whiff of dust in the air shimmers like mist; blowing sand sparkles in a gust of wind. Dried seed heads and grasses glow from the bosque floor, their tips haloed with light. It's that shimmer that I don't know how to capture.
Of course, the problem may well be that sometimes a beautiful day shimmers even more in memory than it did in reality...