The Time of the Plunging Sun

These days there’s a particular kind of beauty afield. It’s a beauty shot through with darkness, one that draws energy from the forces of disintegration. Everywhere I look I’m reminded that life is cyclical, and endings are every bit as integral to life as beginnings.

If I had to compare this time of year to Spring I’d say I’m happier in the Spring, even joyful. Now, as daylight becomes scarce, a pervasive undertone of sadness is undeniable. My drive to go outdoors isn’t as strong. When I do go out though, the beauty I find rewards close attention and second looks. It’s less predictable, more complex. Colors bleed through numberless permutations, forms contort in unthinkable ways, light bends and shifts, revealing forgotten corners. If I needed reassurance that ample beauty continues in this darkening world, well, that consolation is right in front of my eyes.

1. A maple leaf is cradled in the fine, crooked twigs of a Red huckleberry bush.

2. This leaf hangs suspended from delicate strands of lace lichen.

In the forest I listen to the gentle plunk of leaves hitting the ground. Some don’t make it – they’re caught on branches or land on other leaves. What irony that a tree bares its branches only to receive falling leaves from higher places. The vagrant leaves may be released with the next rainstorm, or maybe they’ll spend the winter hanging by a thread.

Leaves that do reach the forest floor crunch under my feet, wafting earthy scents into the cool air. A plethora of mushrooms add to the rich aroma.

3. Which leafy trail to take depends on how much more daylight is left – it gets dark fast in the forest once the sun sets.

4. Silver-gray mushrooms seem to hide under the last Starflower leaves.

5. Angled November sunlight turns the feathery branches of Redcedar trees gold.

6. Red huckleberry bushes lose their leaves slowly. I like the subtle wiggle of their crooked twigs and branches.

7. Yesterday the forest was quiet, except for little plunking sounds as Bigleaf maple leaves fell to the ground. It sounded like pattering raindrops at first but the blips of sound lasted longer and there was more space between each plunk. Listening to the leaves was magic; watching them drift down in gentle, back and forth arcs was enchanting.

8. Years ago beavers made a shallow lake here. Now the trees left standing affirm the setting sun’s hold on calm water.

9. Their seed scattered to the winds weeks ago, the architectural forms of wildflowers are sturdy reminders that they will be back.

10. The beach has a raw, wild beauty now. Clouds hang heavily and the cold air keeps me moving.

11. Driftwood patterns seem more defined under the cool, pewter light of Fall.

12. Three stones in a huddle have settled into driftwood log beside the beach.

13. A Douglas squirrel scolds and bravely confronts me for impinging on his territory. Shorter days and instinct tell the squirrel he’ll need every seed he can hide, so he protects his stash.
14. Wild honeysuckle fruits look tempting – but only for a photograph.

15. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) leaves curl elegantly as they turn red.

16. At Rosario Beach the sky is on fire.

17. Sunset reflects in the window of a log and stone picnic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s at Deception Pass State Park.

*

The sun plunges to earth earlier

and earlier

darkness moves in

and beauty manifests in new ways, always.

*


73 comments

  1. Happy uniqueness to you: Google turns up no hits for the exact phrase “time of the plunging sun.”

    The math teacher in me reacts to the seeming contradiction of “numberless permutations,” though I’ll grant you that the numbers quickly grow exceedingly large.

    Your last picture conveys coziness inside the shelter, even though that coziness is borrowed via window reflection from the world outside the shelter.

    Those lit-up leaves of the maple stand out well against the darker trunks and forest beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steve, you made me laugh with your google search – I knew it was a weird title but decided to let it stand. πŸ˜‰ The shelter is beautifully built, sturdy and handsome and probably a good bit cozier than the beach it overlooks on most days. Thank you for your attentive eyes, and enjoy the weekend. πŸ™‚

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    • πŸ™‚ That was one of those really complex scenes that I almost didn’t photograph because it was hard to find one area of focus. Then I thought, maybe I can convey the fine detail in all those thousands of little twigs and branches and with some help from Lightroom, it sounds like it worked. I’m glad!

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  2. Another beautiful set of images, Lynn, especially #15. I love this time of year, too, probably more than springtime. Also, as I get older, I like the long nights and the extra time for reflection.

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    • That curling leaf was a little gift – glad you like it. Your sanguine outlook on autumn evenings is noted. I’ll try to remember that the next time I complain about short days. Thank you. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you, Vicki – the colors are amazing, aren’t they? Behind that fireweed leaf, there were more leaves turning colors and some still-green plants. In the past, I’ve photographed fireweed seedheads, which can be really pretty, but this year the rain ruined the seedheads. The leaves were a good consolation prize.

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  3. Poetry and stories in stones, woods, and water. Even fire, in the last two sunset shots, and the underwater glow in #8. Very poetical writing, Lynn, this is a very beautiful post.
    Autumn is my favorite season – – for me, it’s a pervasive undertone of melancholy, more than sadness. Although when the snow comes early, it is undeniably sad to see how quickly this emotionless ice sweeps away the beautiful leaves, and turns them to brown mush. Well we’ll be inside a bit more, maybe, but that’ll give us a chance to have a cup of tea and enjoy your photos, you always capture the glow in every leaf and tree.
    The scene of old lace and fading leaf in #2 looks like the dressing room for an over-the-hill actor, and I like those three rocks, huddled up on their log for a story. Maybe β€œStone Soup” I always liked like when I was a kid. #15 really is pure elegance, and its name is no slouch either, Fireweed is cool, and β€œChamerian angustfolium” is pure Tolkien, too.

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    • Oh, gracias my friend, I appreciate it. Yes, melancholy is a better term. I’m a junkie for the promise of spring but I appreciate this season. Speaking of being inside, look at Ken’s comment above (oneowner). I frankly never thought of it that way, but you and Ken make winter nights sound OK. I love your interpretation of #2. At some point, I expect I’ll do a post about that lichen – it’s a really cool one. I didn’t have to do much for #15 – the leaves turned gorgeous colors and curled in nice spirals, right next to the trail. πŸ™‚ Thank you for putting your mind to work here – it’s fun for me! πŸ˜‰

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  4. These caught me in an already reflective mood, and the eloquent words and images enhanced that mood significantly. All of the photos speak to me, but to stand out: The blue glow in number five speaks to me of infinity and the truth that there is much more to be seen beyond the immediate season. Number 15 is a treasure.

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  5. I definitely have some seasonal affective disorder and every year I say I’m going to shoot in the winter. On occasion I do but not in any near regular way. I’m going to try again this year. Seeing your inspiring shots in the off weather helps motivate !

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    • That gladdens my heart. As I said to Robert above, I’m a junkie for the promise of spring. Still, there’s no question that you can find extraordinary beauty in every season. The key is probably just getting over the reluctance to go out. And inspiration certainly helps, so if I provide a scintilla of that, it’s all good. πŸ™‚

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  6. So much beauty you’ve captured – in both words and pictures, reminding me of my daily hikes. We went a bit further afield a couple of days ago to Pacific Spirit national park on the other side of town – giant maple leaves! and the trails on our daily forest walk around the local golf course are thick with crunchy leaves looking much like your number 3 photo.
    It’s been so dry here!
    Favourite photos: 9, 15 – must have a closer look at the fireweed next time I’m out!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been very dry here too but today we have light rain, and maybe we’ll get more this coming week -you too, hopefully. Those Bigleaf maple leaves are so much fun, as big as dinner plates sometimes. I was amazed when we first came out here and saw them, being used to “normal” eastern-style maple leaves. Fireweed usually has great wispy, curly seedheads – a tall stalk of them. But ours were plastered down by all the rain we had a month ago. Maybe there are some nice ones near you. Glad you enjoyed the post, Alison, thank you. Have a good week!

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  7. Fine post and photo’s. I can rely to the undertone of sadness. Our friend Adrian had a shot of a Horse Chestnut that ‘starts to prepare for Winter’; and I thought: that’s quite a positive way of looking at it. Picks: 8! 9 and 15, which is not that sad..

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    • I’ll watch out for Adrian’s Horse chestnut….my email’s been down all week, and once again, I’m very behind. You’re right, that curly leaf is certainly not sad. It’s a good thing we have photography to keep ourselves amused over the darker months, isn’t it? Enjoy the weekend, Harrie!

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  8. The sun definitely is your friend, dear Lynn! It enlightens so special sceneries for you when you appear in the woods, as if it had been waiting for you to come.
    #7 and #8 are my special favourites here, they are so full of secret wisdom waiting to be disvovered. And they seem to contradict you when stating you don’t like the darker times at the end of the year: they seem to whisper ” look here at the beauty that darkness offers”.
    Autumn and winter for me are the seasons that are not so demanding my activity, giving me more inner time of cozy reading or listening to music. And thankfully thinking about which gifts the goneby year as brought me.
    The beauty of your photographs surely is part of those. I thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, it’s not as simple as disliking the dark and preferring lighter times. Let’s say I appreciate each season for what it brings, but there’s no question that I’m happier overall in the spring. I enjoy the drama in the darker images. The positive aspects of fall and winter that you point out are good to remember (look at what Ken, aka oneowner, said above, it’s similar). In light-filled months we do get too busy. What a lovely present you gave me with this comment. πŸ™‚

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  9. Your words and photos do an incredible job of reflecting autumn and the undercurrent of sadness/decay it holds (the days growing darker is what hits me the worse)… however, it is also such an incredible season for me for the same reasons you describe above. For me, autumn is a bit like getting ready for bed (winter) after a great day and I look forward to the slumber πŸ™‚ Cheers to a great weekend for you.

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    • That’s a good analogy! πŸ™‚ We’re going to hop on a ferry and go roam around Port Townsend today, so that should be nice. I have to say, the long spell of dry weather we recently had made it easier to get out so I’m really not complaining. I don’t know if you’re currently “here” or “there” but wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the weekend too – it’s good to hear from you. πŸ™‚

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      • I am currently ‘there’ but will be back to ‘here’ for Christmas ~ and hope for dry weather too! Port Townsend is such a cool place…so many areas in this region are simply perfect πŸ™‚ Cheers to exploring ~

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  10. I understand “Now, as daylight becomes scarce, a pervasive undertone of sadness is undeniable”, but have to say that I like autumn – I’m at one with all the seasons, but maybe this is my favourite – the year ageing, a chill in the air, colours, mists. I enjoy hearing your thoughts. I like 2 and 14, but ohhhhh! = 5, 7, 8 and15!!!!! A πŸ™‚

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    • At one with all the seasons, huh? Well, that’s pretty damned enlightened, Adrian. πŸ˜‰ Seriously, I like them all too, but the tone of each season is different, for sure. #2 and #14 are the kinds of photos I love to do and often gravitate towards: a close look at an interesting detail with the background soft and ideally, filled with light. I might get in a rut if it weren’t for you and other bloggers whose work inspires me to stretch out. I’m glad you liked #5 – at the time, I was wondering if it was possible to show the way so many fine branches created an almost misty feeling. πŸ™‚ Thank you!!

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  11. Your prose is poetry, especially the feeling that goes beyond the second paragraph … the photos are pure poetry to the eyes … and the final four lines poetically summarize everything we have just read and seen!
    Magnificent post!

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    • I wanted to finish with some kind of summary or at least something to tie it all together, so thank you for noticing the effort. πŸ˜‰ Things have been very challenging for the last month so it’s good to put something positive out there and to dwell in beauty. Have a good week!

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  12. “the plunging sun,” yes… I really, really want to teach myself to see the beauty distinctive to each season and not automatically think of fall/winter as a time of decline & loss. I realize I am doing this as I age myself, so yes, I have a self-interest in all this! I’ll add that whatever you say about sadness, your photos illustrate the great, and distinctive, beauty of this season – entirely different from that on offer in spring.

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    • Well, the title is pretty awkward, but plunging does seem to describe the feeling these days. πŸ˜‰ I’d be surprised if you didn’t find things to enjoy about fall and winter. Maybe not quite as many things as the brighter times of the year, but…. πŸ˜‰ We agree about the beauty being here now, and very different from what we see in spring. We just have to go out and look for it. Cheers to you, Penny!

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  13. You never fail to disappoint when I come by your posts dear Lynn πŸ™‚ Shifting seasons do bring our senses to the fore, with your observations and beautiful captures you manage to embrace it all . Wonderful . I understand myself a certain reluctance to venture out from snugness in less promising and chilly weather but gosh the rewards can be great .
    I think a little more Shinrin-Yoku is in order for me . Thank you Lynn for the spur πŸ˜‰
    Drawn to no 5 7 and 10 and 15 πŸ™‚

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    • Wow, blast from the past, as they say, and what a delight to hear from you! Yes, the reluctance is quite real, isn’t it? But we need to give ourselves a push because we’ll benefit (and maybe others will benefit too) from getting out. You know, making Forest Bathing into a movement seems silly to me, it’s so obvious that being in a forest is good for you – but I shouldn’t complain because anything that encourages us to get outdoors is good. I hope you’re doing well, and enjoying yourself one way or another. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for commenting!

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  14. What an exquisite collection of photos that capture the winter woods so accurately. You took my breath away because I have seen these beautiful signs of the coming winter on so many walks through the years..

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  15. I really love this collection Lynn! Beautiful pictures and descriptive writing throughout. I love the light in #5 & #6. Your fireweed observation and composition stood out for me. Then, both #16 & #17 served as a wonderful finale. Great work!

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  16. Oh, I love the hanging leaves! My favourite pictures are # 1,2,6,8,14,15 and the last one. The last one with the sundown in the window is like a picture in a picture. Wonderful shot! I love #15, so colourful the fireweed together with this exceptional background! I also like the tenderness of picture #14 and 16 (wiggle ist a funny word!). The squirrel is very cute and I hope you took some nuts with you :-). The stones look as if they want to cuddle together to warm each other πŸ˜‰ Interesting what you say about the autumn. I can’t say if I love spring more or autumn, but I think it is autumn, just a tiny bit! We had some sun the last 2 days and that urges me out. I had to go to the wood, looking at the warm autumn colours. Of course these very dark days with fog and lots of rain can be depressing. But as long as the leaves are variegated everythings fine by me πŸ™‚ But like Ule wrote: the dark and cool times are good to withdraw, to relax and to concentrate on other, maybe inner topics. At what time of the day the sun goes down in your place? I remember you talking about your dark fir woods. That may be a challenge too when the weather is bad…I wish you some sunny moments!!

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    • You have a lot of favorites! That works for me. πŸ˜‰ Yes, wiggle is a good word, and not a normal one to use for bent branches but to me they sort of wiggle back and forth. πŸ™‚ No squirrels around here going to accept food from a human unless maybe they come to a bird feeder at a house. That little guy was in a wild place and I was lucky he came so close. I do usually have nuts in my pocket though – for me! πŸ˜‰
      The colors are definitely more complex and amazing in the fall, but I am stuck on the life energy of spring. Ule had a very good point and a few other people said the same thing and I won’t argue but I guess I’d rather have more spring and summer.
      Sunset today was 16:38. We’re at 48.51 latitude. In the woods, yes, it’s dark because so many of the trees are evergreen. If it’s clouds then there is really not much light to work with. But we have lots of water and shorelines too, so I can always go to a more open place. I’m glad you got to the woods today! πŸ™‚ Have a good week.

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      • I just checked, we must be nearly at the same latitude (if I read it right it is 52.3667). Our sunset is said to be at 16:35 today. Right, the open space of shorelines and the wide sea must be very welcoming! I envy you that it is just a step ahead. – As long as the squirrels find enough in the woods everythings fine. They will find enough cones in your dense woods! So what is a nut then πŸ˜‰ ? – Yes, the energy is a different one and the warmth (not the heat) of the summer days are inviting to go out. I love the springtime-greens very much, but I love colours too, so autumn has its charme for me πŸ™‚ But you said it in your comment: every season has its beauty. Winter and snow can be sooo beautiful, but I would enjoy it much more with 10 degrees πŸ˜‰ A good week to you too! PS: next monday my wisdom tooth will be extracted! I am glad when it is gone.

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  17. The sound of a leaf hitting the ground is something I’ve never heard. The surrounding quiet that enabled you to hear the leaves as they landed must be pretty special too.

    #5, #8, and #15 are my favorites.

    How far in the dark did you have to go after taking some of the sunset photos?

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    • It’s good to hear from you! πŸ™‚ The leaves surprised me – I had that feeling someone was around: little sounds. I looked, saw no one, stood very still, and realized I was hearing the ample leaves falling. You can bet I smiled. One of the joys of living in a less populated place is the quiet. Another way I’m spoiled is that I can drive just ten minutes from home, then walk five minutes from the car and be where the last photos were taken. So no walking in the dark. They close that park at dusk and a ranger comes around to check – sometimes I’m the last or almost last person out. πŸ™‚

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  18. Hard to pick a favorite in this set, they all speak in different ways, all an inflection on autumn. It makes me feel guilty for not getting out and photographing it.

    The last shot is not only beautiful but unique. Talk about going out like a house on fire!

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    • That’s the log shelter at Rosario Beach – I’m sure you’ve seen it if you ever came ashore in that area. I just happened to be walking by and saw the sunset reflected there. πŸ™‚ Don’t feel guilty, just get out when you can. πŸ™‚

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  19. I think it’s understandably that this season, particularly towards its end, releases a feeling of sadness. At the same time, autumn is the beginning of a new life cycle – as you point out – by regenerating energy for the next generation of life. What I particularly enjoy about the late autumn, is the more subtle colours and the its less predictable outcome it provides in photographs – as you also points out and so beautifully show in this lovely series of photos.

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  20. Hi Lynn, As much as I love autumn, I am with you that with the shorter days comes a melancholy feeling. Your images express this but also celebrate the quiet beauty of the changing season…the last leaf hanging on, the trails blanketed with leaves. I am really drawn to #5’s colors and light, the backlit leaf, the seed pod silhouette, the B&W rocks(of course) and your final hurrah of the sunset landscape and the marvelous sunset reflection on the window. Beautiful collection, thank you. πŸ™‚

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  21. This comment was written off line, after I read your post but was unable to see most of the images. Ah, now at the museo, I can appreciate the images as well, but sometimes its fun to picture what you are describing before seeing the images. Here’s my feedback:

    Like you, I rejoiced with the arrival of springtime when I lived in the USA – a bit like embracing the full moon’s presence in the sky, and then knowing that it would be waning into it’s own type of winter. I miss the long days of summer, but don’t miss those short cold days of winter!
    Your next paragraph was especially eloquent: ‘. Colors bleed through numberless permutations, forms contort in unthinkable ways, light bends and shifts, revealing forgotten corners.’
    ‘ What irony that a tree bares its branches only to receive falling leaves from higher places. ‘
    Shorter days and instinct tell the squirrel he’ll need every seed he can hide, so he protects his stash.’ – (I also chuckled about the squirrel scolding you for ‘impinging’ – you have such a refreshing gift with words!)
    The sun plunges to earth earlier and earlier’ and you remind me of the contrasts here on the equator, with almost-consistent balance of hours of for the days and nights.

    …….
    As always, you are so very talented!!!

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    • Comparing spring to the full moon is a very interesting idea, Lisa. πŸ™‚ I see what you mean. Impinging may have been on my mind because I’m back at physical therapy, dealing with various issues and remembering that when I broke my arm that word was used to describe something going on that of course, I can’t quite pin down. I try to use words that are a little different but struggle sometimes. Well, we all do, don’t we?
      Yes, it’s so different on the equator. You will like this northern hemisphere observation: Yesterday I was coming down off a hill just as the sun was going down. It does set suddenly these days. The forest is thick so it was getting fairly dark. It rained recently so there are many mushrooms. Along the trail, dozens of very small, white mushrooms lit up the dark forest floor and I thought they were not unlike stars in the sky – little bright white circles sprinkled on the darkness. πŸ™‚ Thank you, my friend from far away, and my apologies for not visiting – soon I hope!

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      • This morning I was pondering Thoreau’s words about time “is but the stream i go a-fishin in…’ and he finishes with a part about ‘drinking deeper, fish in the sky whose bottom is pebbly with stars…’ and i pondered what it must have been like to know him and witness such deep observations and to be able to articulate and share with others… and now here you are with similar observations!
        old injuries tend to remind us of events from long ago – and i hope that you soon put yours back into hibernation!

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  22. Yes, Spring does bring a sense of joy to us. But Autumn can also with so much beauty. We humans tend to place much importance on our longevity so anything that hints of life’s end can create a little gloom. I don’t really see much gloom in your images, Lynn. The beauty of passing time and quietude of nature’s pending slumbers more I think.
    The mushrooms in number 4 are possibly aged Spotted Purple Corts-Cortinarius iodes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Intellectually I agree wholeheartedly but my basic disposition is to rejoice in spring, in the most knee-jerk way. πŸ˜‰ But I do find beauty at all times of year, in just about all circumstances. I’ll look up that mushroom – there are so many these days! I’ve been seeing a huge one in the woods that has a deep depression in the middle. It’s cream-colored, another gilled mushroom. More than that I don’t know. I did see one coral mushroom – that was cool – but most of what I’m seeing this week is the relatively anonymous, little brown job mushroom in lighter or darker versions. I know they’re different species but…. πŸ˜‰ Thanks Steve, keep warm if you can and have a good weekend!

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      • Warmth is a challenge the last few days, but we are due for some warmer, relatively speaking, temperatures this weekend. Your other mushroom might be a Lactarius but there are several in an autumn depressed state. πŸ˜€
        Autumn then followed by winter does lead to sadness for many. S.A.D. I did have a few winters that I succumbed to it but lately have found it just a rest and not anything overwhelming. Last year taught me that any season is a gift. πŸ™‚

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