Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Autumn light

The sky is shockingly blue, and the cornfields have faded to shades of dusty brown, beige and gold. There are now yellow flowers growing along, on top of, between, the dried stalk, so that the fields seem to have burst alive again just as the corn has been cut.

I wish I could photograph the light itself, which comes in at an acute angle, casts sharp shadows, and seems to be highly charged. In my private mental catalog of things I'll miss intensely, deeply, achingly about Guatemala, high on the list is this light of the last part of the year, these fields, these mountains, with the deep green of the pine trees stretching over hillsides and valleys, misted softly in the morning with a layer of light, fluffy fog. Every time I walk up in the hills, on the road that eventually leads to San Andrés Sajcabajá, and look back down at the valleys with their fog and their pines, I want to grab it all and embrace it. throw myself into it, find a way to wrap it up and bring it home with me, not just the sight but the dry scent of the fields, the sweetness of crushed pine, although I know this is not possible.

This morning I saw a woman I've seen many times before, with her small flock of goats and a few cows. This time she was accompanied by a young girl, maybe her daughter, both of them wearing straw brimmed hats against the sun that was already rising rapidly as we walked, and carrying switches to encourage the animals along at a good clip. There was a very young little black and white goat that scampered along the sides of the road, but trotted back as the flock moved on, not wanting to get separated from the group. We said our good mornings, but the angle of the sun was too sharp and the light too intense for me to photograph them, except from the back, as they were walking away from the sun and to get their faces I would have had to shoot into it.

So that goes into the mental memory banks, the things we have to keep catalogued without the help of photographic aids. These walks have become such a part of my daily routine; they are a space as well as a time for me to think, breathe, absorb.  The quiet crunch of the dirt, stones, gravel, leaves underfoot soothes me, along with the steady rhythm of my walking, the cadence of breathing. But at this time of year the light nearly literally takes away my breath.

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