Through the Wood
Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography by Tam Ryan
Originally published in 1844 as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day,” Lydia Maria Child’s poem has become the quintessential celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, evoking childhood memories of traveling through an autumn dreamscape on the way to a Norman Rockwell-esque dinner with relatives.
The poem includes references to “the white and drifted snow” because, in the early 19th century, New England was enduring the Little Ice Age — a colder era with earlier winters. In 1949, with a few modifications, Danny Kaye and the Andrews Sisters turned Child’s poem into a Christmas carol called “A Merry Christmas at Grandmother’s House,” re-associating the classic lyrics with a different season and holiday.
However, with references to blowing wind that “stings the toes and bites the nose” as well as “hurrahs” for pudding and pumpkin pie, the poem-turned-song, for many, will always elicit fall imagery and all of the intense emotions that come with the Thanksgiving holiday.
The very visceral notion of being surrounded by brown tree trunks, green pine needles and leaves of yellow, orange and red produces both nostalgia for Thanksgivings past and anticipation for the festive family celebrations that are right around the corner. These thoughts and feelings are among the best representations of just how much sentimental significance a single image can contain.
As such, photography truly is a form of visual poetry. Photographer Tam Ryan, whose mother was a writer and poet, gains inspiration for capturing nature in its many forms from a poem by Robert Frost called “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” That is perhaps one of the reasons her work is so astonishing.
Images Arizona is honored to share some of Ryan’s alluring autumn scenes in this month’s photo essay. Arizona may be a bit warmer than New England but its beauty this time of the year is just as breathtaking. It is our hope that these scenes elicit the thoughts, feelings and maybe even memories of traveling over the river and through the wood to a wonderful fall holiday with family.
About the Photographer
“That starter camera sparked my interest in photography,” Ryan says. “Everywhere I went, I had my camera.”
Raised on the East Coast, Ryan was introduced to the American West via visits to family on the Western Slope of Colorado. She quickly became fascinated with the region’s unique attributes and vast landscapes. During a visit to Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert with a photography group in 2012, she developed a particular interest in photographing birds.
“I had lived in Mesa since 1997 but had never known about that birding area,” says Ryan, noting that, since then, the preserve has become one of her favorite places to photograph. “I have met many photographers [there] who have become personal friends or who have helped me identify some of the birds.”
Ryan is especially drawn toward snowy egrets, great egrets and great blue herons but, as the artist has had the privilege to call the Desert Southwest home for more than 40 years, her photographic interests now also include abstracts in nature, desert flora, desert wildlife, macro and landscapes.
Ryan, whose photography has won numerous awards and been featured in several calendars and publications over the years, believes that one of the greatest assets to her work is her zoom lens as it allows her to get close enough to capture incredible images of birds and other wildlife.
“Giving them some distance is the best way to capture images that do not disturb their natural habitat,” she explains.