Thoreau’s Spring, a time to admire last year’s dead vegetation (Walden 191)

In early spring it’s always pleasant to see the new shoots springing up from barely-thawed soil, or sometimes poking through snow. Even before they amount to much they’re full of the promise of summer.

But who on earth spends time admiring the dead vegetation left over from the previous year?

Thoreau, of course.

“When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few warm days had dried its surface somewhat, it was pleasant to compare the first tender signs of the infant year just peeping forth with the stately beauty of the withered vegetation which had withstood the winter — life-everlasting, goldenrods, pinweeds, and graceful wild grasses, more obvious and interesting frequently than in summer even, as if their beauty was not ripe till then…”

He has a point. Even grasses, which we often mistakenly consider weak or insubstantial, stand up remarkably well under winter conditions. Henry was most impressed with the wool-grass (Scirpus cyperinus).

“Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to hear this king described as a rude and boisterous tyrant; but with the gentleness of a lover he adorns the tresses of Summer.”


(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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