This week, as we watch the forests magically change their colors, wave fond goodbyes to the squawking flocks and ponder the stillness of the lake in its reflective glory, Susan Fenimore Cooper comes to mind. And while we were planning to offer our own reflections on the beauty of the changing season, Cooper’s enchanting treatment of the subject would be hard to top, so we let her speak for herself. It was in 1850 that her book, “Rural Hours,” was first published, and in its pages we can confirm that rather little has changed.
“October 2nd … The day was perfectly still, the lake calm and placid, the reflection of its banks more than usually lovely in its clearness, and accuracy: the changing woods, each brilliant tree, the hills, farms, and buildings were all repeated with wonderful fidelity, and all the sweetness of the natural landscape.
“October 4th … How rapid are the changes in the foliage at this season! One can almost see the colors growing brighter. The yellows are more decided, the scarlet and crimson spreading farther, with a pink flush rising on many trees where yellow prevails, especially among the maples. Still there is a clear vein of green, perceptible; not the verdure of the pine and hemlock, but the lighter greens of the aspens and beeches, with some oaks and chestnuts not yet touched. Indeed, the woods are very beautiful to-day; the general effect is charming, while here and there we note a scarlet maple, a golden birch, so brilliantly vivid that we are really amazed at the richness and beauty of their coloring.
“October 5th … Although there are certain general rules regarding the coloring of the trees, still they
vary with different seasons; some which were red last year may be yellow this autumn, and others which were dull russet may be bright gold color. The other day we found a wood-path strewed, at one spot, with pink aspen-leaves; but the general color of this tree is a decided yellow … Spring works lovingly – Autumn, proudly, magnificently.
“… we saw several flocks of birds, waterfowl and other smaller birds, moving steadily to the southward. These flocks give much interest to the autumn sky; they are often seen now, but are not common at other seasons … Through the spring and summer, the birds live with us, in our own atmosphere, among our own groves and plants, every-day companions; but at this season they soar above us, and we look up at the little creatures with a sort of respect, as we behold the wonderful powers with which they are endowed, sailing in the heavens, over hill and dale, flood and town, toward lands which we may never hope to see.
“… Butterflies fluttering about in the sunshine; dragonflies also, “la demoiselle dorée,” as the French call them – strange, that what is a young lady in France should become a dragon across the Channel!
“October 11th … Mark the broad land glowing in a soft haze, every tree and grove wearing its gorgeous autumnal drapery; observe the vivid freshness of the evergreen verdure; note amid the gold and crimson woods, the blue lake, deeper in tint at this season than at any other; see a more quiet vein of shading in the paler lawns and pastures, and the dark-brown earth of the freshly ploughed fields; raise your eyes to the cloudless sky above, filled with soft and pearly tints, and then say, what has gloom to do with such a picture?
“Tell us, rather, where else on earth shall the human eye behold coloring so magnificent and so varied, spread over a field so vast, within one noble view? In very truth, the glory of these last waning days of the season, proclaims a grandeur of beneficence which should rather make our poor hearts swell with gratitude at each return of the beautiful autumn accorded to us.”