“Henry David Thoreau simplified his life to understand life... To him, nature rather than civilization was the repository of life, and living close to nature the means to mine that treasure.” — Adapted from Miriam Levine’s “A Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England.”

“Thoreau’s Classic Essay on the Colors of Fall”

“Flowers are but colored leaves, fruits, but ripe ones. The edible part of most fruits is, as the physiologist says, “The parenchyma or fleshy tissue of the leaf,” of which they are formed.

“Our appetites have commonly confined our views of ripeness and its phenomena, color,mellowness and perfectness, to the fruits which we eat, and we are wont to forget that an immense harvest which we do not eat, hardly use at all, is annually ripened by Nature. At our annual Cattle Shows and Horticultural Exhibitions, we make, as we think,a great show of fair fruits, destined, however to a rather ignoble end, fruits not valued for their beauty chiefly. But round about and within our towns there is annually another show of fruits, on an infinitely grander scale, fruits which address our taste for beauty alone.

“October is the month for painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky.  November the late twilight.

“I formerly thought that it would be worth the while to get a specimen leaf from each changing tree, shrub and herbaceous plant, when it had acquired its brightest characteristic color, in its transition from the green to the brown state,outline it, and copy its color exactly with paint in a book,which should be entitled, “October, or Autumnal Tints” — beginning with the earliest reddening, —Woodbine and the lake of radical leaves, and coming down through the Maples, Hickories and Sumachs, and many beautifully freckled leaves less generally known, to the latest Oaks and Aspens. What a memento such a book would be!”

Joe Rhinehart can be reached by  e-mail at joeprhinehart@gmail.com.

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