Monday, October 08, 2012

`The Red and Black Oaks Are Yet Green'

“The strange and wonderful are too much with us.”

I was sitting in the driveway, weeding and pulling piles of loblolly needles from under the shrubs when a dog I had never seen climbed onto my lap, licked my face and settled in for a nap. She was middle-sized and honey-colored, grizzled around the muzzle and peaceful as a rabbit. I scratched her head and she closed her eyes and swooned. Under the carpet of needles was a sunless world of pale rootlets, stems, tubers and fungus. Life adapts, proliferates, assumes its proper place, fills empty spaces, not notably concerned with the merely human. On this date 160 years ago, Oct. 8, 1852, Thoreau notes in his journal: 

“Canada snapdragon, a few flowers at top. Everlastings, field trefoil, shepherd’s-purse, door-grass, white goldenrod, fresh tansy, veiny-leaved hawkweed, also that which seems to run from this into Gronovii (probably the former). Aster undulatus (?), with delicate purplish or lilac-tinted flowers, has those heart-shaped, crenate leaves with a claret under surface. Bushy gerardia budded still.” 

A bouquet blooming in Concord, after the first frost and two weeks after the coming of autumn – a gift from Thoreau. For my twenty years in upstate New York, I followed the southerly movements of fall colors, tracking them like Napoleon’s armies. The colors are peaking now where I lived in the Capital Region. Thoreau’s next paragraph, after a visit to Walden: 

“The autumnal tints about the pond are now perfect. Nothing can exceed the brilliancy of some of the maples which stand by the shore and extend their red banners over the water. Why should so many be yellow? I see the browner yellow of the chestnuts on Pine Hill. The maples and hickories are a clearer yellow. Some white oaks are red. The shrub oaks are bloody enough for a ground. The red and black oaks are yet green.” 

The line quoted at the top is from Amy Clampitt’s “Nothing Stays Put” (Westward, 1990). The poem is compromised by political posturing but Clampitt’s understanding is useful: 

“Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we're
made of, is motion.”

1 comment:

Ciara said...

Never mind Thoreau. What happened to the dog? (Is she okay?)