Thoughts on Columbus Day


Columbus Day always makes me think of New England.

Before I lived there for just a few years, I’d never been especially tuned into fall foliage colors. At least when I was growing up in Iowa, there’s lots of other things going on at that time of year. Especially harvest. And that’s definitely not when one spent lots of time admiring the scenery, unless it surrounded a corn field, of course.

But in the East, at least when I was there, folks traveled to see the fall colors in New England. I always had this image of a line of cars headed north from cities like New York and Philadelphia to “do nature.” On Columbus Day weekend, I just tried my best to stay off the main roads that led to the prettiest areas. There were plenty of other options.

The colors were pretty spectacular, of course, definitely worth a drive. And the influx of tourists, even for a long weekend, was good for business along the route.

I wonder how many rolls of film were shot of the beautiful scenery that weekend. (Never mind how easy we have it today with our digital cameras.) Whether it’s film or digital, I often think that taking scenery pictures is frustrating. But when there’s a truly awesome vista in front of you it’s almost a reflex to reach for a camera or a phone to capture the scene in order to savor it later.

Yet my experience is that even the most perfect shot can be frustrating, because what you get is just a small square of what you saw. And often what makes the scenery breathtaking is the scope of what you’re seeing, the broad vistas, everything that’s laid out before you and around you. What’s in a picture just can’t be the same. So I don’t take many pictures any more that are only scenery, as tempting as it is to try to preserve it.

I had a friend who did some mountain climbing in New England. She had a different approach to the standard pictures just about everyone liked to take when they reached the summit. Hers always had her boots in them, with a picture taken as she sat on the ground at a summit, her feet stretched out in front of her, framed with a lovely scenery shot of the vista that she faced. She told me it was only fitting to photograph her boots; after all, they got her there.

Now let’s go out and enjoy our lovely Iowa fall scenery as the colors begin to change. How thoughtful of old Chris to be born at such a pretty time of year.