Thoreau’s October Observations

     Henry David Thoreau is well-known for his eloquent writings about the natural world around Walden Pond in Massachusetts.  Although he spent only a couple of years actually living in the cabin he built by the pond, Thoreau revisited the spot many times and wrote often about what he saw there between 1851 and 1858.

     Following are some observations he made 153 years ago today, on October 22, 1857.  I find them pleasing, and I enjoy sharing them here.–April Moore

     “The oaks stand browned & crisped (amid the pines) their bright color for the most part burnt out–like a loaf that is baked–& suggest an equal wholesomeness.The whole tree is now not only ripe but as it were, a fruit–perfectly cooked by the sun.  That same sun which called forth its leaves in the spring–has now aided by the frost–sealed up their fountains for the year–& withered them.  The order has gone forth for them to rest–As each tree casts its leaves it stands careless & free–like a horse freed from his harness–or like one who has done his years work–& now stands unnoticed but with concentrated strength & contentment–ready to brave the blasts of winter without a murmur–  

     “The birches have been steadily changing & falling for a long long time.  The lower most leaves turn golden & fall first–so their autumn change is like a fire which has steadily burned up higher & higher–consuming the fuel below–till now it has nearly reached their tops. 

     “These bright leaves are not the exception–but the rule–for I believe that all leaves even grasses. . . . .& mosses as sphagnum under favorable circumstances acquire brighter colors just before their fall–When you come to observe faithfully the changes of each humblest plant–you find it may be unexpectedly–that each has sooner or later its peculiar autumnal tint or tints–though it may be rare & unobserved–as many a plant is at all seasons–And if you undertake to make a complete list of the bright tints–your list will be as long as a catalogue of the plants in your vicinity.

     “Think how much the eyes of painters–both artisans & artists–& of the manufacturers of cloth & paper–& the paper stainers are to be educated by these autumnal colors.

     “The stationers envelopes may be of very various tints–yet not so various as those of the leaves of a single tree sometimes–If you want a different shade or tint of a particular color you have only to look further within or without the tree–or the wood.  The eye might thus be taught to distinguish color & appreciate a difference of shade or tint.”


One Response to “Thoreau’s October Observations”

  1. Joan Brundage Says:

    How beautiful! Thanks for sharing this. Alan, my husband, and I plan on visiting the Autumn leaves up on Mt. Lemon here in Tucson this Saturday. I will think of Thoreau there.

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