Henry David Thoreau and I share a bit in common. We both lived for a time in Concord, Massachusetts and area, and we are related – he’s a third cousin a few times removed to be precise. But the most important thing we share, is that Thoreau was a fellow naturalist and a conservationist, although I don’t know that he knew of either term. He considered himself an “inspector of snowstorms and rainfalls.”
He also loved trees.
He wrote of the pines around Walden pond, but in his book on the Maine Woods he mentioned birches. There is something about a birch tree that is fascinating. Thoreau even went so far as to note the order in which they leaf out — “the yellow birch first, then the black or the paper birch, then the white” — and turn color in fall. I’ve been noticing the birches this fall, and can verify that Cousin Henry’s observations are correct. I’d add that beeches come later still, many hanging on until the first snow of winter causes the leaves to freeze and then drop in the wind.
One of the first trees we planted in our yard here on the shore in Port Maitland years ago was a small clump of white birch. It’s doing well, and this year the leaves were noticeable in their colour, and the trunk of the trees show a nice white and black pattern. It’s pretty now, and growing bigger. Perhaps in years to come someone can sit under it and think back to Thoreau and in the stillness give thanks that people “can’t cut down the clouds” as they do the trees.