Recently, Mrs. Owens’ WHA Honors Biology students wrote short essays in the style of either Wendell Berry or Aldo Leopold. She had asked them to spend 20-30 minutes outdoors in a specific place of solitude and write about their thoughts and observations. Enjoy the following by Daniel Moreau and Helen Shearer.
Enjoying the Moment in a Busy World
The season is ripening. Autumn has come with remarkable colors; it is an apple that is almost ready to be picked from the tree to enjoy. Every day that brings new color to the season, however, is also another day towards that apple falling without any one ever having enjoyed the fruit. In reality, it is all too easy to allow autumn to end without once giving up one’s time to take in the season. Autumn is certainly one of the most striking seasons, yet it is also one of the most fleeting seasons in its experiences.
The leaves starting to change color is always an impatient experience in New England. The world is still colored in its rich green, summer coat with a soft gray to make it all the more peaceful and quiet, save for the whistling of the wind in the ears. With the world in such a swirl of green and gray, one almost forgets himself in the feel of the grass between one’s toes and the satisfying coarseness in the wood and rocks.
There appears, however, a restlessness that lies on the very tips of the maples, impossible to ignore. An invisible artist slowly begins to dye the leaves with a new hue for a new season, and the stony breeze is just beginning to nip at your heels, propelling the season towards its inevitable end. Squirrels, in response, ceaselessly scurry back and forth as if there is no end to the work that must be done, and a skunk may attempt to find a home in a warm garage, free from the icy wind’s whispering. As time goes on, as it surely does in autumn, the leaves ripen and fall, and the cold chases man inside for want of warmth.
With the restless animals and the tireless, invisible painter going about their jobs, it is easy to lose oneself in the business of the season without ever enjoying the beauty of it. Before it can be processed, the icy wind has already swept away the golden orange leaves and the peaceful gray landscapes; the season is much too short to stay inside. An apple will only last so long on the tree before it falls and is enjoyed by other living things; thus, it is important to pluck the season while it’s ripe, enjoy the splendor while it lasts.
The Autumn Dance
Come join the dance! The ball room is full of laughter, bright colors, and the sound of flying feet as music plays and men and women dance to the tune. Sometimes the song is fast and sometimes slow, but the dancers follow the speed. This dance belongs to the trees. In autumn, the trees dress themselves in yellow, orange, red, green, and brown. Then the wind blows, starting the music and the great dance. No other dance claims the beauty and gentle but vivacious rhythm of the trees’ dance. Those who wander the woods in autumn have the pleasure of being in the midst of this great dance, and such a one was I.
To witness this beautiful dance, I go to the place where it happens: the trees. I make my way through the woods, feeling quite unworthy as I am welcomed by a red carpet of maple leaves. I quickly make my way through the woods to a towering maple. Within a few minutes I have scaled the tree and am perched in some of the topmost branches. I breathe in the fresh fall air, which smells of leaves, pine needles, and moss. Spreading out above me, the cloud covered sky with an occasional blue spot makes me feel quite small. I see the tops of other trees around me and below me. Prepared for the dance, the maple in which I sit is clothed in majestic yellows, oranges, and reds, the result of decreased chlorophyll molecules (Miller and Levine 231).
There is an aspen tree, almost close enough to touch, and although her dress is of simple yellows and greens, her laughter is the most beautiful music of all for the flat stem of her leaf is an expert at catching the wind. Then the wind blows, the branches sway as I cling to them, and oh how the trees laugh, sing, and dance! The wind tickles their leaves until one leaf laughs so hard it flies free of its tree to dance with the wind. Through the air between branches twirling here and there, the wind carries a leaf in an elegant dance but then gently sets it down on the forest floor to find another companion. Though the dance is short, it is beautiful nonetheless.
Between the branches of the maple tree, I notice a somber pine while more of its kind grow a bit farther off, all alike in silent observation. Although they make almost no noise, the pines still partake in the dance in their own way, letting their needles gently sway in the breeze to let off a Christmas like scent from the terpenes in their resin (Conners). The leaves continue to rustle in the wind, and I hear the occasional chip of a bird a ways off in the woods, adding to the music of the trees. Finally, I descend the tree, but the dance continues and my mind remains full of the spectacular event I have witnessed for a short time.
To be among the trees to listen and watch as they laugh and dance is a gift and one I will not forget. The maple, the aspen, and the pine all contribute to the dance in their own way: the maple with her bright colors, the aspen with her gay laughter, and the pine with her sweet scent. Despite their differences, the wind unites them in one great autumn dance. Their dance inspires me to go outside and feel the cool breeze kiss my face, to run, twirl, and laugh, or as the somber pine, to just sit and listen for a while, and then to go out in the world and share what I have. Like the trees, we differ from each other and we each are given something special, talents and abilities to share with those around us. Let us learn from the trees and share what we have been given. So come, join the dance!