October 29, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:

When the leaves fall, the whole earth is a cemetery pleasant to walk in. I love to wander and muse over them in their graves, returning to dust again.

Here are no lying or vain epitaphs. The scent of their decay is pleasant to me. I buy no lot in the cemetery which my townsmen have just consecrated with a poem and an auction, paying so much for a choice. Here is room enough for me.

October 28, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Going up the cliffy hillside, just north of the witch-hazel, I see a vigorous young apple tree, which, planted by birds or cows, has shot up amid the rocks and woods, and has much fruit on it and more beneath it, uninjured by the frosts, now when all other fruits are gathered. It is of a rank, wild growth, with many green leaves on it still, and makes an impression, at least, of thorniness. The fruit is hard and green, but looks like palatable winter fruit; some dangling on the twigs, but more half buried in the wet leaves, or rolled far down the hill amid the rocks. The owner, Lee, knows nothing of it. There is no hand to pluck its fruit; it is only gnawed by squirrels, I perceive. It has done double duty, — not only borne this crop, but each twig has grown a foot into the air. And this is such a fruit! Bigger than many berries, and carried home will be sound and palatable, perchance, next spring.

Who knows but this chance wild fruit may be equal to those kinds which the Romans and the English have so prized, — may yet become the favorite of the nations? When I go by this shrub, this late and hardy, and its dangling fruit strikes me, I respect the tree and am grateful for Nature’s bounty.

October 27, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:  

The colors of the fields make haste to harmonize with the snowy mantle which is soon to invest them and with the cool, white twilights of that season which is itself the twilight of the year. 

It is impossible to describe the infinite variety of hues, tints, and shades, for the language affords no names for them, and we must apply the same term monotonously to twenty different things…When the tints are the same they differ so much in purity and delicacy that language to describe them truly would not only have to be greatly enriched, but as it were, dyed to the same colors, itself, and speak to the eye as well as the ear. And it is the subtle differences which especially attract and charm our eyes. Where else will you study color under such advantages? To describe these colors you must use colored words…In describing the richly spotted leaves, for instance, we find ourselves using ineffectually words which merely indicate faintly our good intentions, giving them in our despair a terminal twist toward our mark,-–such as reddish, yellowish, purplish, etc. We cannot make a hue of words for they are not to be compounded like colors, and hence we are obliged to use such ineffectual expressions as reddish brown, etc. They need to be ground together.

October 26, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

These regular phenomena of the seasons get at last to be (they were at first, of course) simply & plainly phenomena or phases of my life. The seasons & all their changes are in me. I see not a dead eel or a floating snake—or a gull—but it rounds my life and is like a line or accent in its poem.

Almost I believe the Concord would not rise and overflow its banks again, were I not here. After a while I learn what my moods and seasons are. I would have nothing subtracted—I can imagine nothing added. My moods are thus periodical, not two days in my year alike. The perfect correspondence of Nature to man—so that he is at home in her!

October 25, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

This is the coolest day thus far, reminded me that I have only a half-thick coat on. The easterly wind comes cold into my ear, as yet unused to it. Yet this first decided coolness — not to say wintriness — is not only bracing but exhilarating and concentrating our forces.

So much the more I have a hearth and heart within me. We step more briskly, and brace ourselves against the winter.

October 24, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The road through the woods this side the powder mill was very gorgeous with the sun shining endwise through it—& the red tints of the deciduous trees now somewhat imbrowned—mingled with the liquid green of the pines.

October 23, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

October has been the month of Aut. tints. The 1st of the month the tints began to be more general—at which time the frosts began. Though there were scattered brights tints long before—but not till then did the forest begin to be painted. By the end of the month the leaves will either have fallen or be sered & turned brown by the frosts—for the most part….

October 22, 1839

in Thoreau’s Journal:

— — Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain — —

October 21, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Most leaves now on the water. They fell yesterday—white & red maple—swamp white oak—white birch—black and red oak—hemlock (which has begun to fall), hop-hornbeam, &c &c—

October 20, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Green leaves are doubtless handsome in their season, but now that we behold these ripe ones, we are inclined to think that the former are handsome somewhat as green fruits are, as green apples and melons….

At this season each leaf becomes a laboratory in which the fairest and brightest colors are compounded.

October 19, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:  

At this season of the year, when each leaf acquires its peculiar color, Nature prints this history distinctly, as it were an illuminated edition. Every oak and hickory and birch and aspen sprinkled amid the pines tells its tale a mile off, and you have not to go laboriously through the wood examining the bark and leaves. These facts would be best illustrated by colors, ––green, yellow, red, etc.

October 18, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

No annual training or muster of soldiery, no celebration with its scarfs and banners, could import into the town a hundredth part of the annual splendor of our October.

We have only to set the trees, or let them stand, and Nature will find the colored drapery, —flags of all her nations, some of whose private signals hardly the botanist can read. Let us have a good many maples and hickories and scarlet oaks, then I say. Blaze away! 

October 17, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Methinks the reflections are never purer and more distinct than now at the season of the fall of the leaf, just before the cool twilight has come, when the air has a finer grain. Just as our mental reflections are more distinct at this season of the year, when the evenings grow cool and lengthen and our winter evenings with their brighter fires may be said to begin. And painted ducks, too, often come and sail or float amid the painted leaves. 

October 16, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Am surprised to find an abundance of witch hazel now at the height of its change. The tallest bushes are bare, though in bloom; but the lowest are full of leaves many of the green, but chiefly clear and handsome yellow of various shades, from a pale lemon in the shade or within the bush, to a darker and warmer yellow without…

October 14, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Sat in the old pasture beyond the Corner Spring Woods to look at that pine wood now at the height of its change, pitch and white. Their change produces a very singular and pleasing effect. They are regularly parti-colored. The last year’s leaves, about a foot beneath the extremities of the twigs on all sides, now changed and ready to fall, have their period of brightness as well as broader leaves. They are a clear yellow, contrasting with the fresh and liquid green of the terminal plumes, or this year’s leaves. These two quite distinct colors are thus regularly and equally distributed over the whole tree. You have the warmth of the yellow and the coolness of the green. So it should be with our own maturity, not yellow to the very extremity of our shoots, but youthful and untried green ever putting forth afresh at the extremities, foretelling a maturity as yet unknown. The ripe leaves fall to the ground and become nutriment for the green ones, which still aspire to heaven.

October 13, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The red of oaks, etc., is far more general now than three or four days ago, but it is also much duller, so that some maples that were a bright scarlet can now hardly be distinguished by their color from oaks, which have just turned red….

PM  To Poplar Hill.  Maple fires are burnt out generally, and they have fairly begun to fall and look smoky in the swamps. When my eyes were resting on those smoke-like bare trees, it did not at first occur to me why the landscape was not as brilliant as a few days ago. The outside trees in the swamps lose their leaves first.

October 12, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I love very well this cloudy afternoon, so sober and favorable to reflection after so many bright ones. What if the clouds shut out the heavens, provided they concentrate my thoughts and make a more celestial heaven below!

I hear crickets plainer; I wander less in my thoughts, am less dissipated; am aware how shallow was the current of my thoughts before. Deep streams are dark, as if there were a cloud in the sky; shallow ones are bright and sparkling, reflecting the sun from their bottoms. The very wind on my cheek seems more fraught with meaning.