How Beautiful They Go…

“How pleasant to walk over beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling fallen leaves….
How beautiful they go to their graves!”

—Thoreau, October 12, 1853

Thoreau, our great chronicler of the seasons, wrote a lot about the falling leaves in October, noting all the different colors and hues. Their colors aside, he thought, like many things in nature, they could teach us something about accepting our own internal seasons, and our mortality.

October 22, 1853:

Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed upon the earth. This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year. This annual decay and death, this dying by inches…. The year’s great crop. They teach us how to die.

October — Harvest Time — was also a month for Thoreau to contemplate his “harvest of thought.”

On October 24, he writes, “My eye is educated to discover anything on the ground…. It is probably wholesomer to look at the ground much than at the heavens.”


[Update: 4PM: I had no idea that Thoreau actually collected his thoughts on fall in the 1862 essay, “Autumnal Tints.” See this piece, “Revisiting the Splendor of Thoreau’s ‘Autumnal Tints,’ 150 Years Later.” This is one of the amazing things about reading Thoreau’s journal before you read the published work — he pilfered so much from his daily writing that you know exactly where sentences and sections come from, and it’s fascinating to see how he changed them.]

The writing above is directly quoted from a post by Austin Kleon.  You can read the entire post here: The Leaves.  I wanted to hold onto it somewhere because there is so much to think about…

  • the life cycle of leaves and how through their death, it creates life for another.
  • the idea of nature and its relation to our internal seasons
  • annual decay and death.  I wonder if we experience this in our lives annually.  I don’t mean actual decay or death, but more metaphorically?  Are there things that are slowly disintegrating or coming to an end?  And do we even realize it?
  • love the term, “Harvest of Thought.”  Lots to play with there.
  • “It is probably wholesomer to look at the ground much than at the heavens.”  How often are we looking and planning ahead, rather than paying attention to right now?  I know I do.
  • Autumnal Tints.  Ugh.  Love the language. So good.
  • “he pilfered so much from his daily writing…”  I need to get back to a daily writing practice.





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