BY JOSHUA HESTON
Early morning cast the Ozarks in shades of blue. A perfect sky dawning, billows of fog in the White River Valley. Lake Taneycomo’s vaporous effluence drew a shroud across Branson, obscuring condos, telephone poles and roadways. The coldwater lake regularly exceeds its banks, not with water but with fog, creating — from the hills — floating castles in the sky. Here, framed by oak leaves, Table Rock Mountain rises (PLATE 1, above).
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), a common and unwanted lawn weed, takes on special qualities in the early morning light, etched with traceries of frost. The falling evening temperatures and hot afternoons brought out the most brilliant of autumn colors.
Red and green are also the colors of fall, not just Christmas. In Busiek State Forest, clouds of foliage created a delicate explosion of color. Ozark artist George Kieffer painted these particular colors to great effect.
A stand of maple, shot here in reverse from a lying position, frame a study of black trunks, bright blue sky, and a riot of true autumn color — a fleeting, evanescent beauty.
Woods Fork, which runs through Busiek State Forest, is nearly smothered in fallen leaves as the early light peeks over the mountain. One frosty morning I remember taking my shoes off and fording the cold water before proceeding up the mountain.
A tangled bit of green briar, heart-shaped and seemingly innocent, takes on special meaning as the rest of the forest is transformed to the color of fire.
The soft, delicate leaves of the maple are a study of yellows, oranges, light and shadow.
A riot of color, the forest seemingly aflame in leaves, this oak is illumined by a golden, afternoon sun. As the days become increasingly short, autumn serves as a reminder of the beauty and transient nature of life.
The White River Hills near Walnut Shade, Missouri, take on the hues of blue and rust, a magical and understated scene. The Ozarks’ beauty is often understated, asking of the viewer a sensitive heart and keen eye. But to those willing to persist, these old Ozarks open up a heart and soul of unending beauty.
Crimson maple leaves frame towering blue sky. Look carefully in the upper-left corner of the sky to see a jet contrail — reminder of a greater, bustling world of technology just outside our door.
Even leaf litter takes on special qualities this time of year. Soft beneath the feet, each leaf unique, this is the debris of another season passed — a forest’s aspirations for growth and survival — the passing cycle of life.
The falling sun traces its way across the sky. Another day nearly gone. Branches and trunks now black in silhouette, the oak appear on fire — a tribute to another fall, another year, now nearly gone. Autumn requiem. Listen quietly and hear, not tolling bells but a soft rustle in the wind. A tribute. A moment of great, fleeting majesty, but only if you’re quiet or broken enough on the inside to hear.