Category Archives: News and Events

Leafing Out

Suddenly, it seems, my field of vision is crowded – from accustomed long sightlines over sweeps of terrain it has narrowed to pinholes and hints of what’s beyond. The greeny leaves have unfurled, and I am back in the lime-lit world of the immediate. Also now, the merest stir of air lends an arrhythmic wobble to each leafy mobile as the breeze passes, and even a mild wind bends whole branches to its will. All of this news is sung each morning; starting just before 4:00 a.m. with the birds, spring is expressed.

That it has been a cold spring is a still strong memory, and perhaps that accounts for the sudden feeling of the leaves’ arrival. The buds swelled early, it seemed. But the buds always swell well before they offer leaves. We wait out the days of their return.

Much has been made recently of spring’s surge to earlier and earlier expression, and Henry Thoreau’s records of its advent have offered the sort of precise observation that satisfies scientists and floats popular narratives. Boston University scientist, Richard Primack, has made compelling use of Thoreau’s work as part of the tsunami of evidence that suggests our climate is changing.

Here, at the Concord school where I work, we have our own modest set of observations that add to this legacy of looking for spring. One of our scientists has been photographing the maple tree behind our meeting house for the past 8 years, and one of the occurences he has tracked is the date of the first leaf on the tree. This May 11th our first leaf appeared – and we haven’t been this late for leafing out since 7 years ago. This spring is almost 2 weeks later than what we’ve been experiencing for the past 2 years.

2008 12-May
2009 10-May
2010 2-May
2011 1-May
2012 29-Apr
2013 30-Apr
2014 11-May


It’s modest example, but of such variability is public skepticism of climate change made. We are, with our 360-degree sense of touch, characters of the immediate; even in our most cerebral and farsighted moments what touches us often varies from what prolonged observation and reason support.

Today, the wind is from the south, and the hazy air is thick with the scent of lilacs; we’re only a few degrees short of drowsy. Stringing the steel wire of will to long-term findings and change is hard work for this immediate animal, especially as the body feels the soft stir of warm air that it loves.

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Filed under Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, Nature, News and Events, The Roost


The other day, after reaching Thoreau’s closing image in Walden – “The sun is but a morning star.” – we went to the pond. We left early, driving the two miles over quiet roads and arriving (with permission) at the closed park. One lone angler was on the east shore; we headed for the house site. Outside the book after six weeks in its room, we were headed back to where it began.

At the house site, we crowded into the little post-and-chain rectangle and read a few passages about the March morning in 1845 when Henry Thoreau began building his house. We looked up at the “tall arrowy pines” and in imagination felled a few; we “left the bark on.” Then, we admired the sprawling cairn nearby. Now, it was time for the water and the sun, and each of us went to a sitting place along the banks of the northwest shore. Everything was afire with sunlight, even the undersides of branches had caught the light of the “second sun,” the one that flashes up off the pond. Already the night cold was gone; the new day was afoot. The sun had brought it.

Morning at the pond

Morning at the pond

While my students entered their various solar reveries, I watched them from across Thoreau’s cove, and it wasn’t long before I entered a reverie of my own, this one about the power possible from the same sun that lights Walden. Are we not, clever species that we are, able enough to use that power directly instead of continuing with our habit of unearthing its stored remnants and burning them, thereby setting off a cascade of unnecessary change in our atmosphere?

That, in turn, made me think of Thoreau Farm’s solar challenge – to which we have given happily. The challenge seems especially apt, as I emerge from another reading of Walden, where it has been a gift to be brought over time again to this morning star, and then left there on the shores of a new day to choose my direction.

And, now that we have “fallen back” into Standard Time, it is a gift to awaken each morning to the low-angled, November sun as it streams through the leafless trees. Even at this northern latitude and in our shortened days, the sun has power.

That morning, we left the pond warmed; perhaps some of us were newly awake. The sun had worked its daily magic.

I hope you’ll consider helping us bring some of this magic to Thoreau Farm.

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Filed under Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, News and Events, The Roost, Thoreau Quote, Walden

Now I am Ice; Now I am Sorrel – Amy Ragus at Thoreau Farm

Amy Ragus

Natural Encounters: On and off the trails at Fruitlands and Walden

As an extension to her current exhibition at Fruitlands Museum, Amy Ragus will be showing several photo-collages at Thoreau Farm from July 4 – July 22. Ragus’ photo-collages have been called “kaleidoscopic mosaics” that seek to capture particular moods, feelings and movements of the seasons. Having photographed the seasons at Walden for many years, Ragus includes images of Continue reading

Fruitlands in this exhibit. She writes:

The Fruitlands Community lasted from June 1843 to early January 1844. Thoreau’s approximate two years at Walden commenced in 1845. Both experiments had a setting in nature and answered to that setting. In my photographic responses, my intellectual and personal life makes “contact” with the natural surroundings. I have been shooting at Walden for over 20 years. I am informed by Henry David Thoreau’s writings and emphasis on the reciprocity between seasonal changes and the emotions.

Ragus quotes from Thoreau’s Journal:

Our thoughts and sentiments answer to the revolution of the seasons, as two cog-wheels fit into each other. We are conversant with only one point of contact at a time, from which we receive a prompting and impulse and instantly pass into a new season or point of contact. A year is made up of a certain series and number of sensations and thought which have their language in nature. Now I am ice, now I am sorrel. Each experience reduces itself to a mood of the mind. Journal, June,1857

At Thoreau Farm, we promote Thoreau’s ideal of “living deliberately” and believe Ragas has captured this spirit in her work.

Visit Thoreau Farm on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 to 4:00. Call or send an e-mail for additional hours. 978-451-0300

You can see the complete exhibit at the Fruitlands Museum from May 20 – August 14, 2012.

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Filed under Arts, News and Events