The brilliancy of the scarlet oak being generally dulled, the season of brilliant leaves may be considered over, ––say about the 10th; and now a new season begins, the pure November season of the russet earth and withered leaf and bare twigs and hoary withered goldenrods, etc.
The stillness of the woods and fields is remarkable at this season of the year. There is not even the creak of a cricket to be heard. Of myriads of dry shrub oak leaves, not one rustles. Your own breath can rustle them, yet the breath of heaven does not suffice to. The trees have the aspect of waiting for winter. The autumnal leaves have lost their color; they are now truly sere, dead, and the woods wear a sombre color. Summer and harvest are over. The hickories, birches, chestnuts, no less than the maples, have lost their leaves. The sprouts, which had shot up so vigorously to repair the damage which the choppers had done, have stopped short for the winter. Everything stands silent and expectant. If I listen, I hear only the note of a chickadee — our most common and I may say native bird, most identified with our forests — or perchance the scream of a jay, or perchance from the solemn depths of these woods I hear tolling far away the knell of one departed. Thought rushes in to fill the vacuum.
I find it good to be out this still dark mizzling afternoon– My walk or voyage is more suggestive & profitable than in bright weather. The view is contracted by the misty rain–the water is perfectly smooth & the stillness is favorable to reflection. I am more open to impressions more sensitive–(not callused or indurated by sun & wind) as if in a chamber still. My thoughts are concentrated– I am all compact– The solitude is real too for the weather keeps other men at home. This mist is like a roof & walls over & around & I walk with a domestic feeling– The sound of a wagon going over an unseen bridge is louder than ever–& so of other sounds. I am compelled to look at near objects– All things have a soothing effect–the very clouds & mists brood over me. My power of observation & contemplation is much increased. My attention does not wander. The world & my life are simplified. – What now of Europe & Asia?
Climbed the wooded hill by Holden’s spruce swamp—& got a novel View of the river & Fair Haven Bay—through the almost leafless woods. How much handsomer a river or lake such as ours seems thus through a foreground of scattered or else partially leafless trees though at a considerable distance this side of it—especially if the water is open without wooded shore or isles— It is the most perfect & beautiful of all frames which yet the sketcher is commonly careful to brush aside. I mean a foreground—a view of the distant water through the near forest—through a thousand little vistas—as we are rushing toward the former—that intimate mingling of wood & water which excites an expectation which the near & open view rarely realizes. We prefer that some part be concealed—which our imagination may navigate.
Sometimes I would rather get a transient glimpse or side view of a thing—than stand fronting to it. As those poly-podies— The object I caught a glimpse of as I went by haunts my thoughts a long time—is infinitely suggestive—& I do not care to front it & scrutinize it—for I know that the thing that really concerns me is not there, but in my relation to that.That is a mere reflecting surface.
It is not the polypody in my pitcher or herbarium, or which I may possibly persuade to grow on a bank in my yard or which is described in botanies that interests me—but the one that I pass by in my walks a little distance off—when in the right mood. Its influence is sporadic—wafted thro’ the air to me— Do you imagine its fruit to stick to the back of the leaf all winter? At this season polypody is in the air— It is worth the while to walk in swamps now, to bathe your eyes with greenness— The terminal shield fern is the handsomest & glossiest green.
Must be out-of-doors enough to get experience of wholsome reality—as a ballast to thought and sentiment. Health requires this relaxation, this aimless life. This life in the present. Let a man have thought what he will of Nature in the house—she will still be novel outdoors. I keep out of doors for the sake of the mineral, vegetable, and animal in me….My thought is a part of the meaning of the world, and hence I use a part of the world as a symbol to express my thought.
As the afternoons grow shorter, and the early evening drives us home to complete our chores, we are reminded of the shortness of life, and become more pensive, at least in this twilight of the year. We are prompted to make haste and finish our work before the night comes.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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….