The Color Yellow

birch

My eyes were captivated by the paper birch trees (Betula papyrifera) in the North Cascades. Their range is north of here, so I don’t see them locally.

All of the trees that turn yellow in the fall–bigleaf maple, western larch, black cottonwood, paper birch, aspen, willow–stand out against a backdrop of dark green conifers. One of the principles of design is contrast: if you want to draw attention to something or create a focal point, then make it opposite of what’s around it. Light against dark, bright against dull, curved against angular, etc. This is why yellow trees are so vibrant, even on an overcast day. If a sunbeam should find its way from behind the clouds, yellow trees gather the light and glow like torches. A breeze pulls leaves from their twigs, and they flutter and twirl like fragments of sun. Such moments can take the breath away.

The yellow is transient. The leaves I pressed in my journal have faded after a couple of days. Leaves that have dropped from the trees may have tan or black spots, the beginning of decay. Rain smashes them together in soggy mats. Yellow becomes a memory as winter approaches.

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