Thoreau on Seeing, Especially in Autumn

October 5, 2012

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.”
— Elizabeth Lawrence

The turning of the maple leaves

“Thoreau is a first-class noticer, and he is our most articulate observer. He understood the power of and the need for directed attention carried out with the utmost intensity. He understood that we are what we give our attention to, and, long before William James put it in words, Thoreau understood that “attention and belief are the same fact.” Finally, Thoreau doesn’t just give you one autumn, he gives you the way to see every autumn.”
— Robert Richardson, “Fall Poetry:  Why Thoreau Adored Autumn,” Huffington Post online blog, October 3, 2012

Robert Richardson, in this week’s Huffington Post article, calls Thoreau “our finest writer on autumn.”    He remarks not only on Thoreau’s gorgeous descriptions, but praises even more Thoreau’s amazing powers of perception: “Like Zorba the Greek, Thoreau saw every thing every day as though for the first time. We all walk out into the same multitudinous world, but who among us sees as much as Thoreau did?”

My goal this year is to see autumn with “Thoreau eyes.” It’s a worthy habit to cultivate, I think.

2 Responses to “Thoreau on Seeing, Especially in Autumn”

  1. Chris Says:

    Me too…I never get tired of seeing some of the same things every day because every day, they are a little bit different than the day before…like my daily, twilight ritual of going out to watch the bats…it’s like I’m seeing them for the first time, each evening. I feel I can’t go back in until I see them!!
    Beautiful photo of the turning maple leaves…which I never get tired of looking up at the trees or picking them up from the grass to look closely at! Like snowflakes…no two are alike!

  2. Margaret Says:

    We have had some amazing fall colors here, despite the drought. The wind the past two days has pretty much stripped the trees. Thanks for the dose of Thoreau!


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