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Bare Trees, Stubble Fields, First Frost

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Today, I celebrate the seasonal transition as we approach, in the Northern Hemisphere, the celestial demarcation from fall to winter, occurring in an imperceptible moment on the winter solstice. Fall’s colorful glory has passed and most hardwood trees stand bare and leafless now. Crops have been harvested and fields lie fallow or marked only with stubble, remaining to be plowed under.

The two woodcuts below executed by Bertha Boynton Lum add another element characteristic of this time of year as the first frost or two are likely to have left a glistening upon the exposed tree branches as pictured so well, on the left, in the simply titled “Frost.” On the right, Lum portrays O-Yuki, the Frost Fairy, drawn from Japanese folklore, plying her cold magic.

Frost on trees.
Frost. Color woodcut by Bertha Boynton Lum, copyrighted 1920.
Portrays O-Yuki, the Frost Fairy, in action.
O-Yuki, the Frost Fairy. Color woodcut by Bertha Boynton Lum, copyrighted 1916.

In Peter Moran’s late 19th century etching below, I choose to see that the farmer, accompanied by his free-ranging chickens, is plowing under the fall stubble in the autumn (although taking into account such factors such as latitude, elevation, and instruction passed down through generations, the farmer may have been plowing this stubble in springtime).

Print shows two men driving two teams of horses pulling plows, tilling the soil in a field, as hens root about in the stubble.
Ploughing Stubble. Etching by Peter Moran, copyrighted February 14, 1888.

This time of seasonal transition, occurring late in the year and following on Thanksgiving’s expressions of gratitude, strikes me as an apt moment to take a reckoning of the year’s events, accomplishments, and failings ahead of resolving to do better in the coming new year.

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Japanese walking with umbrellas in snow.
Winter. Color woodcut by Bertha Boynton Lum, copyrighted 1909.

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