Bare bones in sky: how the woods celebrate Halloween.

Nature’s bones.

A few short weeks ago (last week?  the week before?) the woods vibrated with rich colors of orange, red, yellow.  Bright vivid leaves surrounded, encompassed, danced on autumn breezes.

Almost alien.

A few short weeks ago the beauty of blazing intensity took your breath away.  You wanted the colors to remain this rich, this amazing, forever and a day.

Twists and turns.

Nothing stays the same, does it, dear reader?

One day we’re filled with color, and the next day we’re down to bare bones, the raw essence of our world.

Holding on for the ride.

Trees are made of bone and muscle reaching for the sun.  In tree-language we call them trunks and branches, twigs and leaves.

They’re all reaching upward to the heavens, roots interlaced in earth’s deep rich soil, making sure the faraway branches don’t fly upward to join hummingbirds and butterflies and honking geese aiming south.


I love the bones of trees.

They speak a simple language of blowing in the wind, of clicking against one another, of singing deep bone songs like bark-hewed husky hymns.

Fingers reaching out.

In late October and early November the woods  feel surreal as colors disappear (especially on a gray snow-spitting afternoon) and there we have it, once again, that quality of simplicity and revelation.

Black and white coven.

It’s not spooky; really it isn’t.

It’s only spooky if we’ve read too many Halloween stories or glimpsed witches perched on branches under full moons in our dreams.


OK, I lied about it not being spooky.  There is an ambiance–just sometimes–the way late autumn in the woods retrieves an aching nostalgia from childhood.  You smell long-ago bonfires.  If you’re lucky, you might sense a doorway opening between worlds, the unknown reaching in its bony fingers to–well–

There is a reason we celebrate Halloween and the Day of the Dead right now.

What reason?

Go outside and ask the bare tree branches, if you dare.

Just so.

This changing of seasons opens us up beyond the frivolities of the harvest. We’re gluttons with orange baked pumpkin and squash, crispy red apples and deep red beets.  We’ve celebrated our gardens until lettuce grew out of our ears.

Now we move toward a leanness of season which reveals something deeper.

Our very essence moves closer to consciousness in the next snow-drifted months.

We learn the gifts of stripped-down, bare attention.

No masks.

No wonder Native Americans told certain stories only in winter time.  As the leaves fall of trees–as the masks drop–we start to truly hear what we’re meant to hear.

We don’t cover ourselves up with frivolous greenery.

No pretension.

Listen, my friend.  Listen deeply in the upcoming months.


No two identical.

Don’t get dizzy looking up.

I wish us honesty with ourselves and others in the upcoming season.  May we not be afraid to truly look what reveals itself beneath our beautiful leaves, our halo of sun, our shining colors.

What exists after the leaves fall off is–simply intricately beautiful.

Don’t be afraid.  What’s revealed is a magic which surpasses Halloween candy, toothy jack-o-lanterns, costumed glory, scary ghosts.

What’s revealed is everything we’ve hidden from ourselves when we were covered with green abundance, leaf-veins dancing in the summer’s breeze.

Happy Halloween from the trees in our northern woods.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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58 Responses to Bare bones in sky: how the woods celebrate Halloween.

  1. CMSmith says:

    I too love the bare trees, although we had to leave our beautiful full-color woods on Monday to get to St. Louis. I think we will come back to only bare bones.

  2. what a beautiful post–and I was just starting to bemoan the fact that some of the trees in my neck of the woods (see how I worked that in) were losing their leaves–we are a little behind you here in southwestern Ontario. But you showed me the beauty in the bare bones of the trees–thank you

  3. Sara says:

    I would have a difficult time moving to an area that doesn’t have the distinct seasons we have in MN. The lushness vs. the bareness year after year gives me a reminder of the passage of time, and also gives me cause to wonder at the workings of nature. Nice post!

    • Kathy says:

      I think Mother Nature is one of our greatest teachers, Sara. The distinct seasons attempt to teach us, over and over again, about Impermanence and change. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful photos and an enjoyable post, too. I love the changes we’re able to experience all through the year. Thanks!

  5. Lynn says:

    Enjoyed your post from elsewhere in the U.P. Reminded me of a friend who said, “I love the winter…you can see the bones of the land.”

  6. debyemm says:

    We had some of the best colors in memory this year, or at least it seemed so. We got rains just in time to salvage our Autumn Colors, from the long drought we experienced this year. Then, quite suddenly, it seems the leaves have ALL fallen off now, here in Missouri. With the Full Moon approaching, last night the bare limbs were shadowed on the ground, in moonlit darkness. I love that effect, about the time of year we are entering now. My son asked if it was the Werewolf Moon. So cute.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Deb, so glad to hear you had such beautiful colors in Missouri this year. It’s interesting that all your leaves have fallen off now, even though you’re so much further south. And Werewolf Moon–too cute! Sounds like your son is a little Native American soul, naming the moons so.

  7. debyemm says:

    I just have to add thoughts to your “deeper” musings here, Kathy – I am in the Autumn of my life now – the frivolous, colorful days of gay youth are gone. Yet, the beauty is like the beauty of the bare bones of trees that you make so much about here. A slower deeper sense of self, now that all the outward show is no longer even possible to truly highlight. An acceptance of self comes with entering crone time.

    • Brenda Hardie says:

      Debyemm, I feel the same way at this time in my life. Like I am in the autumn of my life. Purging my life and myself and getting down to the bare bones, or as my Mom would say the “nitty gritty”. 🙂 Everything you said fits my life at this point….it’s comforting to know I am not alone in this feeling. Thank you!

  8. sonali says:

    I appreciate the changes. Look at the difference! It looks really haunted though, I’m sure Ill be scared to go out alone in the night where all I can see are the bony trees. But, I envy the fact that you people so such varied differences in the nature. Our side the trees never shed their leaves. They forever hold the colors. How boring it is to see the same throughout our life. Only diff is its much greener during the rains and the seasonal flowers & fruits. But naked trees? Never! 😐

    • Kathy says:

      Sonali, that is such an interesting point about trees not shedding their leaves. It’s the same in the States in places like Florida and California. (I never thought about this getting boring, but I can see how it might.) Maybe you will get to see our naked trees some day. Excuse me a minute. I have to go out and yell at a woodpecker. It is pecking on our house and making big holes.

  9. Heather says:

    I love the tree skeletons. They may not be as glorious as the cloak of leaves, but they are the strong survivors of many seasons, marked with the scars of the battles from everyday life. A good reminder that when surface beauty fades, there is still the deeper beauty within.

    • Kathy says:

      How poetically you write at times, Heather! “strong survivors of many seasons, marked with the scars of the battles from everyday life.” And that beauty deep within…may we not overlook it, ever. Looking fondly at the skeletons with you.

  10. Dawn says:

    They are pure beauty – indeed a lesson for us.

  11. Brenda Hardie says:

    Kathy, your pictures and words are so appropriate for today. Not just because of the season but for the season of my life. Today I go to a baby shower to celebrate new life when in my soul, I am feeling not very new at all. Been struggling with that feeling and the alone-ness that comes with aging but after reading Debyemm’s post, maybe I’m not so alone. And perhaps, this new season for me is not such a bad thing. Maybe when the truth of my life is revealed from beneath all the trappings, maybe that’s when I will find contentment.
    Love your pictures of the northwoods trees….♥

    • Kathy says:

      Debyemm captured it so well, Brenda, and I don’t think you’re alone. To honor and love ALL the seasons of ourselves as they appear…that is the challenge and the gift. I have faith that the truth of ourselves is true contentment when the trappings drop away. Glad you loved the trees.

  12. Dawn says:

    When I was in Ann Arbor going to school a few years ago I noticed so many beautifully shaped trees that I took my camera with my one day and got off the bus several blocks away from the car and walked back, taking pictures all the way. Ann Arbor is known for it’s trees for good reason. Love their shapes, and you caught them beautifully!

    • Kathy says:

      I LOVE Ann Arbor trees! I remember them. Sturdy fellows, many oaks, right? Sometimes city trees have a solid dignity that are so beautiful–maybe because they’re forced to grow and flower in more limited spaces. Could be totally wrong there. Maybe it’s because when we’re in the city we’re so surrounded by people that sometimes the trees stand out…just thinking… Tree wishes to you!

  13. lisaspiral says:

    I’ve always loved tree bones. They are so elegant and haunting. Happy Halloween!

    • Kathy says:

      “Elegant and haunting”. Yes, Lisa, those words describe the bones of trees so well. May Halloween bring us treats this year, and not tricks…

  14. susan says:

    Hi Kathy,
    Love the metaphorical philosophy! I think we really SHOULD follow nature’s cue and strip ourselves of pretensions,old beliefs, and all the “stuff” we use to cover ourselves up – get down to who we really are and love ourselves, be ourselves and accept that the “foilage” is a temporary thing and hardly represents the essence of what really holds us together.The nakedness isn’t scary, it’s beautiful!

  15. Colleen says:

    I’ve always been drawn to the bareness? of trees in the fall and winter. There is a stark, clear honesty and beauty about them that your photos seem to capture so clearly.

    We don’t see so much of that here though. The trees that do loose their leaves are very slow, the old ones still falling as the new ones are leafing out. There is always something green and/or blooming. Which is also very nice ( not complaining!) in it’s own way.

    • Kathy says:

      That stark, clear honesty and breath-taking beauty is what is so magnificent, Colleen. That’s interesting about you not seeing many of the skeletons there in California. I always forget that all trees don’t drop their leaves.

  16. lucindalines says:

    Beautiful words and wonderful pictures. So poetic. I love bare Russian olive trees with a cold, full moon tinted so blue through the trees. I will have to look for that this year to share it in a photo. Happy Halloween to you, Kathy.

  17. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    Kathy, you are amazing. You’re always fun and interesting to visit here, but sometimes your writing rises above even itself and speaks to not just my eyes and mind but to my soul and heart as well. Mind if I update my recent post with a mention of, and link to, this beautiful post of yours?

    • Kathy says:

      Sometimes I wish I wrote a blog like this–just a soul-filled writing blog only, Sid. But whenever I vow to do it the photographer side wants to share or the funny side wants to tell a funny story! Of course you may update with reference to this. I would be honored.

  18. Stacy says:

    I love the austerity of winter, but I do find that a melancholy hits. The tree skeletons speak to me, but sometimes my mind is so cluttered (even in winter) that it’s difficult to hear them.

  19. john says:

    Your children were blessed to have you.

  20. Lovely photos and poetic words, Kathy. 🙂

  21. Munira says:

    Beautifully creepy post Kathy, loved each and every picture as usual, and of course, your evocative writing.
    Thank you for sharing your seasons with people in other latitudes and in cities, where there is no trace of a forest.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Mun! Can I call you Mun, or does that sound like a weird sort of nickname that doesn’t translate well between languages and cultures? Wondering what it would be like to live in a land without a trace of a forest. I think it would mold the soul differently somehow…

  22. Karma says:

    As Hurricane Sandy prepares to bear down on the eastern coast, your words become – ah, I’ve become lost in my own thoughts and a bit tangled about what I wanted to say here. I’m thinking many more trees will be looking like the ones you’ve presented here and doing a bit of lamenting about the fact that Mother Nature once again will be showing her force and reminding us about who is in charge.
    Sorry to have rambled so in this comment!

    • Kathy says:

      I’m all lost in my own thoughts and feelings today, Karma. I am more nervous than usual and it’s all my fault because I’m staring mesmerized at all the news reports and worrying like a Mama Hen. May Mama Nature be kind to all of you on the East Coast and beyond. I am wrapping all of you in my love and prayers… Stay safe.

  23. Georgia Mom says:

    Today we notcied hundreds of birds in the sky in our Athens Ga area, probably heading away from the northern bare trees. They all looked alike, Wondered where they were going..

    • Kathy says:

      I think that would be fascinating to see all those birds! I wonder if it would have been possible to take a picture of them. It was nice talking to you today! Thanks again for commenting on my blog.

  24. Barb says:

    Sometimes, I yearn for the naked truth – but other times, I want to hide behind what is more “acceptable.” Why is that? I do love the stark truth of the trees and the purity of snow. If only I could be as brave as Nature! I put Lady of the Stone in a new frame and have her sitting in front of a metal sculpture we just bought from an artist from ID. The sculpture holds a stone right at its middle – I think the sculpture is feminine but Bob doesn’t see that. Anyway, Lady is just glowing there in front – near enough to feel the warmth of the flames in the fireplace. I like seeing her. Thank you again, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      You make such a good honest point, Barb. I think we all want to. “Acceptable” is safe. “Acceptable” helps us fit in. Sometimes I just want to be acceptable, and I think that’s OK, too. Sometimes we want to dance with leaves and sometimes we just want to sprout. I am glad you like our Lady of the Stone so much. That makes me SO happy!

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  27. Robin says:

    I’ve always called them the bones of the trees, too, even after I learned they are branches or twigs. Beautiful post, Ms. Kathy, about the essence of this time of year. Thank you. 🙂

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  29. So inspiring! The intricate workings, so very beautiful.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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