November 20, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The common milkweed (Asclepias Cornuti) and some thistles still for counting. 

I go across the great Tony Wheeler pasture. It is a cool but pleasant November afternoon. The glory of November is in its silvery, sparkling lights. I think it is peculiar among the months for the amount [of] sparkling white light reflected from a myriad of surfaces. The air is so clear, and there are so many bare, polished, bleached or hoary surfaces to reflect the light. Few things are more exhilarating, if it is only moderately cold, then to walk over bare pastures and see the abundant sheeny light like a universal halo, reflected from the russet and bleached earth. The earth shines perhaps more than in spring, for the reflecting surfaces are less dimmed now. It is not a red but a white light. In the woods and about swamps, as Ministerial, also, there are several kinds of twigs, this year’s shoots of shrubs, which have a slight down or hairiness, hardly perceptible in ordinary lights though held in the hand, but which, seen toward the sun, reflect a shiningll silvery light. Such are not only the sweet-fern, but the hazel in a less degree, alder twigs, and even the short huckleberry twigs, also lespedeza stems. It is as if they were covered with a myriad fine spiculse which reflect a dazzling white light, exceedingly warming to the spirits and imagination. This gives a character of snug warmth and cheerfulness to the swamp, as if it were a place where the sun consorted with rabbits and partridges. Each individual hair on every such shoot above the swamp is bathed in glowing sunlight and is directly conversant with the day god. 

The cinnamon-brown of withered pinweeds (how long?) colors whole fields. It may be put with the now paler brown of hardhack heads and the now darker brown of the dicksonia fern by walls.

I notice this afternoon that the pasture white oaks have commonly a few leaves left on the lower limbs and also next the trunk. 

Winter-rye is another conspicuous green amid the withered grass fields. 

The rubuses are particularly hardy to retain their leaves. Not only low blackberry and high blackberry leaves linger still fresh, but the Rubus hispidus leaves last all winter like an evergreen. 

The great round-leaved pyrola, dwarf cornel, checkerberry, and lambkill have a lake or purplish tinge on the under side at present, and these last two are red or purplish above. It is singular that a blush should suffuse the under side of the thick-leaved pyrola while it is still quite green above. 

When walnut husks have fairly opened, showing the white shells within, — the trees being either quite bare or with a few withered leaves at present, — a slight jar with the foot on the limbs causes them to rattle down in a perfect shower, and on bare, grass-grown pasture ground it is very easy picking them up. 

As I returned over Conantum summit yesterday, just before sunset, and was admiring the various rich browns of the shrub oak plain across the river, which seemed to me more wholesome and remarkable, as more permanent, than their late brilliant colors, I was surprised to see a broad halo travelling with me and always opposite the sun to me, at least a quarter of a mile off and some three rods wide, on the shrub oaks. 

The rare wholesome and permanent beauty of withered oak leaves of various hues of brown mottling a hillside, especially seen when the sun is low, — Quaker colors, sober ornaments, beauty that quite satisfies the eye. The richness and variety are the same as before, the colors different, more incorruptible and lasting.