Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let the Trees Teach Us (Autumn): Thoreau's Journal Anniversary

Today is the 174 year anniversary of the beginning of one of the most momentous journals in history. On October 22, 1837, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal--

“What are you doing now?” he asked. “Do you keep a
journal?” So I make my first entry to-day.

To be alone I find it necessary to escape the present,—I avoid
myself. How could I be alone in the Roman emperor’s chamber
of mirrors? I seek a garret. The spiders must not be disturbed,
nor the floor swept, not the lumber arranged.

Oct. 24. Every part of nature teaches that the passing
away of one life is the making room for another. The
oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind
a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life
to an infant forest . The pine leaves a sandy and sterile
soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould.
So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil
of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap.

I have spent many hours recently photographing and enjoying the autumn forest nearby. I traveled to Morgan-Monroe State Forest to immerse my senses in the beauty of autumn. I spent time at Cherry Lake photographing near the water's edge. Cherry Lake was a mirror of colorful reflections. The multitude of colors, ripples in the lake surface, and spent leaves that rode the subtle current, transformed Cherry Lake into a nebula of inner and outer space. Mesmerizing abstract images were everywhere. 

              Autumn Nebula                                             ©Joni L. James

I so love this time of year. The air resonated with blue jays, crows, red-bellied woodpeckers, and the drip of leaves which had released their grip from the trees. The sound of a light "tick" broke the quiet as a leaf landed amongst the other spent lives below or on the lake surface. At times a breeze traveled through the forest and a congregation of them would flutter downward.

Autumn Maples                                                      ©Joni L. James
 Trees have much to teach us. They are an apt symbol for our lives. Trees show us how to live. Just as with people, there is great diversity among species of trees in the forest. Living in communities, they are interdependent upon other life forms and the resources around them. And yet they have much in common.

Autumn Dogwood                                             ©Joni L. James
Trees share their bodies with other creatures such as woodpeckers, owls, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, as well as a myriad of insects, bacteria, and fungi. They allow other lives to live with them in their space and they provide food for many. They share their bounty whether it is fruit, seeds, nuts, flowers, or sap.

Autumn Reflections                                ©Joni L. James

During their lives, trees endure many challenges from wounds, pollution, clearcuts, disease, chainsaws, wind, lightning, insects, and more. Many lose their homes or are removed from their homes. They are resilient. They are flexible in the strong winds and they adapt to the tragedies that befall them. Some trees survive and some don't. Those trees who do, often find their bodies altered in some way.

Leaves on the Final Ride                           ©Joni L. James
Yes, trees show us how to live. But they also show us how to die. Trees cycle through seasons each year, yet there are seasons within seasons. They witness the births and deaths of those around them. Often what affects one, affects the neighbors and families in close proximity. Each year the leaves of the trees must release themselves from their lofty positions. They cycle through seasons within seasons too. Leaves are shed. They surrender and let go. They join the thousands below.

Surrender--Beech & Maple Leaves on Lake Surface         ©Joni L. James
One day the tree will die. Each death may be swift or slow. But through the process they will  still be giving. Giving of themselves to other life forms. Creating conditions for others to thrive or be born. The tree will transition and release their hold on the soil. They are onward to a new adventure-- one of rebirth.

Death of Trees                                             ©Joni L. James
As Thoreau stated in his journal entry, "As I live now so shall I reap." Let the trees teach you.


DebC said...

Another excellent post.
Thank you.

Joni James said...

Thank you Deb & thank you for reading!