Thoreau’s October

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(Host) With fall colors nearing their peak in much of the state, commentator Alan Boye decided to enjoy them with the companionship of a favorite book.

(Boye) I am seated on the shores of a small pond in the hills of Vermont. High, white clouds play hide and seek with the sun. Color is everywhere. The soft light of the October afternoon dapples the evergreens on a near by hill with deep purple shadows. Bright patches of yellow and red burn the hillside in fiery color. It looks as if as if someone has dipped a sponge in heavenly light and painted the world.

I lean back against the trunk of a pine tree, and turn to my book. I came to this pond with a copy of an old favorite – Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. That strange, fellow New Englander spent a long time living right next to a pond like this one, so I figured he’d make the perfect companion for an afternoon visit.

One October, long ago Thoreau sat by his pond. “I see where the breeze dashes across [the water in] streaks and flakes of light,” he wrote.

I look up from my book. The still, mirror-like surface of the pond reflects the brilliant hillside. A gentle breeze disturbs the water. The autumnal wind ripples the pond into streaks of red, lavender and orange, broken here and there by the brilliant shimmer of diamond-white sunlight.

“On such a day in October,” Thoreau wrote, “Walden is a perfect forest mirror.” “Sky water,” he called it, “It needs no fence. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver never wears off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs. . .”

I look back to the pond. Dark ripples slide across the colored water. The blue sky rides on the surface of the deep blue below. Thin, white clouds dance across the surface like ghosts.

Henry David Thoreau said that since ponds hung halfway between the earth and the sky, they reflected the subtlest of life’s spirits. While sitting on the shores of his New England pond Thoreau came to understand that life’s essentials were not the possessions and gossip with which we clutter our lives, but rather the simplest of moments, the moments that truly connect us with reality. “I want to improve the nick of time,” he wrote, “to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment.”

I gaze out across the October pond. The bright hillside glimmers in the water, shades of red and yellow dance before me. Suddenly, from the center of that reflected hillside, a fish jumps into the sky. Then all that is left are the colors of autumn, rising and falling in circles of mystery.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury. His latest book is titled, Just Walking the Hills of Vermont.

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