Henry David Thoreau and gifts from Mother Nature

fruit hanns skolle 1928 The earth, the sun, the rain, and man; put them together and often we cultivate a most harmonious synergy…the production of fruit. Without having to be reminded…for the agricultural industry and advertisements like to do this on a daily basis…most of us enjoy the byproducts of our very industrious workers…the farmer and his team of pickers… and we readily buy and eat without having to be coerced.

Let us consider the blueberry….for when it is in season, I make plenty of room in the refrigerator for its arrival, letting the lettuce and other more mundane items know that a special guest is to arrive. I use the term guest for like a relative that can only visit on certain holidays, its stint will sadly only be here a short time. Yet, I suppose we humans are fickle for as soon as blueberry ‘season’ dwindles down to those less than desirable plastic containers left over in the produce department; our salivary glands are once again acting like Pavlov’s dog.

Ahhhh, the cherry…now that is a most delectable fruit…but alas, her stay is much like the first flowers in spring…they appear for a short time to be enjoyed but for only that momentary occasion nature has allocated and then too…it retreats back while we temporarily mourn for its seasonal delight of return.

However, for all fruit lovers there seems to one type in particular that is always in abundance; the steadfast apple, a fine tasting fruit that magically avails itself during all seasons of the year. Much like a dog, it is dependable, forever wanting to please, and comes in many varieties and even colors…red, yellow, green, golden, sweet, tart, big, small, … they (who ever they are) were so sure of its taste that they even named one variety “Delicious” as well as touting its medicinal prowess…well… we all know the adage: “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” Oh, if that were only true! Even the trees that bare such a joyful fruit are first adorned with a multitude of heavenly flowers that perfume the air; tantalizing us with the thought of “what is to be”!

Thoreau_ Lake Waldon Thoreaus’s Cove at Waldon Pond

And so, today’s blog liberates once again the ever esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau: author, naturalist, and dear friend to Mother Nature; the man who helps us ‘see’ beyond the obvious through his writings and personal observations of the world around us. From his lyrical prose, Wild Apples, l have pruned a bit of his essay in order to take us on short walk through his thoughts.

“…Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye. You will discover some evening redness dashed or sprinkled on some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare that the summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere. It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of Nature,—green even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor,—yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills.

Apples, these I mean, unspeakably fair,—apples not of Discord, but Concord! Yet not so rare but that the homeliest may have a share. Painted by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or crimson, as if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the influence of the sun on all sides alike,—some with the faintest pink blush imaginable,—some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow, or with hundreds of fine blood-red rays running regularly from the stem-dimple to the blossom-end, like meridional lines, on a straw-colored ground,—some touched with a greenish rust, like a fine lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches or eyes more or less confluent and fiery when wet,—and others gnarly, and freckled or peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on a white ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside, perfused with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat,—apple of the Hesperides, apple of the evening sky! But like shells and pebbles on the sea-shore, they must be seen as they sparkle amid the withering leaves in some dell in the woods, in the autumnal air, or as they lie in the wet grass, and not when they have wilted and faded in the house…”

(First photo taken in 1928 by Hanns Skoll)

Esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau

moon Scarcely is there a person who is not awed by the moon; and unlike many of the celestial treasures, it shows different phases of itself throughout the month and then starts all over again. If we had to select a gender; many think of it as a male…the man in the moon, although I imagine some may find the feminine side to this lunar beauty.

The moon has its own glossary of terms such as eclipse, which sends us running outside to see it hide behind the earth or palus, a less notable Latin term meaning ‘swamp’ that is used to describe topographical features on the moon which resembles dark plains or swamps. The moon even has its own personal holiday; Lunar Day, representing two ideas: the first refers to the period of time it takes for the Moon to spin completely on its axis in terms of its position to the sun. The second is the amount of time it takes for the Moon to complete a single orbit around the Earth.

Even the ocean are “moved” by the moon…well that is more literally than figuratively as we recollect that the “motion of the seas” are caused by the gravitational forces of its lunar overseer. (Quite a wily fellow isn’t he; and without us looking, too!)

And how we all must agree that the moon is a romantic; flooding beams of light over the earth in the darkest time of the day…night. It permits us to stare upon its continence without finding us rude. I suppose it is use to such gestures for its wonderment invites us to gaze. Even the animals find the moon intriguing; the wolf bays, owls are more chatty, while all the while humans become more nostalgic.

It is not hard to see why all the arts have paid homage to the moon in all the forms that we humans can muster. A mere sampling back in time journeys us to Paul Delvaux, Belgian artist’s 1939 painting Phases of the Moon; Spanish artist Joan Miró’s lithograph (1952) Dog Barking at the Moon, Antonin Dvorak’s Famous Czech Opera Rusalka in 1901, which included “Song To The Moon” , while in 1964 the airwaves played Frank Sinatra’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon”. Then there is the literary fiction The First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901), and the classic French film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) written and directed by Georges Méliès both.

thoreau And so, I bring to you today’s esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau (1812-1862). Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts he needs not much of an introduction for this 19th century American essayist has donned most library book shelves around the world. Friend and mentor to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he is most remembered for his philosophical and naturalist writings as well as the small home he built on Emerson’s property on Waldon Pond. In 1854, he published Walden; or, Life in the Woods which told of his life close to nature.

From his essay, Night and Moonlight, here are Mr. Thoreau’s observations which I hope you find a lovely respite out from your busy day… who knows….he may even inspire you to stroll beneath the moon beams tonight!

“…Many men walk by day; few walk by night. It is a very different season. Take a July night, for instance. About ten o’clock,–when man is asleep, and day fairly forgotten,–the beauty of moonlight is seen over lonely pastures where cattle are silently feeding. On all sides novelties present themselves. Instead of the sun there are the moon and stars, instead of the wood-thrush there is the whip-poor-will,–instead of butterflies in the meadows, fire-flies, winged sparks of fire!

It does not concern men who are asleep in their beds, but it is very important to the traveller, whether the moon shines brightly or is obscured. It is not easy to realize the serene joy of all the earth, when she commences to shine unobstructedly, unless you have often been abroad alone in moonlight nights.

How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect…”