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Dallas Lore Sharp

A Chapter of Things To See This Fall


dropcap image OU ought to see the sky—every day. You ought to see, as often as possible, the breaking of dawn, the sunset, the moonrise, and the stars. Go up to your roof, if you live in the city, or out into the middle of the Park, or take a street-car ride into the edge of the country—just to see the moon come up over the woods or over a rounded hill against the sky.


You ought to see the light of the October moon, as it falls through a roof of leafless limbs in some silent piece of woods. You have seen the woods by daylight; you have seen the moon from many places; but to be in the middle of the moonlit woods after the silence of the October frost has fallen is to have one of the most beautiful experiences possible out of doors.


You ought to see a wooded hillside in the glorious colors of the fall—the glowing hickories, the deep flaming oaks, the cool, dark pines, the blazing gums and sumacs! Take some single, particular woodland scene and look at it until you can see it in memory forever.


You ought to see the spiders in their airships, sailing over the autumn meadows. Take an Indian Summer day, lazy, hazy, sunny, and lie down on your back in some small meadow where woods or old rail fences hedge it around. Lie so that you do not face the sun. The sleepy air is heavy with balm and barely moves. Soon shimmering, billowing, through the light, a silky skein of cobweb will come floating over.

Look sharply, and you will see the little aëronaut swinging in his basket at the bottom of the balloon, sailing, sailing—

Away in the air—

Far are the shores of Anywhere,

Over the woods and the heather.


You ought to see (only see,  mind you) on one of these autumn nights, when you have not  on your party clothes—you ought to see a "wood pussy." A wood pussy is not a house pussy; a wood pussy is a wood pussy; that is to say, a wood pussy is a—skunk!  Yes, you ought to see a skunk walking calmly along a moonlit path and not caring a fig for you. You will perhaps never meet a wild buffalo or a grizzly bear or a jaguar in the woods nearest your house; but you may meet a wild skunk there, and have the biggest adventure of your life. Yes, you ought to see a skunk some night, just for the thrill of meeting a wild creature that won't get out of your way.


You ought to see the witch-hazel bush in blossom late in November. It is the only bush or tree in the woods that is in full bloom after the first snow may have fallen. Many persons who live within a few minutes' walk of the woods where it grows have never seen it. But then, many persons who live with the sky right over their heads, with the dawn breaking right into their bedroom windows, have never seen the sky or the dawn to think about them, and wonder at them! There are many persons who have never seen anything at all that is worth seeing. The witch-hazel bush, all yellow with its strange blossoms in November, is worth seeing, worth taking a great deal of trouble to see.

There is a little flower in southern New Jersey called pyxie, or flowering moss, a very rare and hidden little thing; and I know an old botanist who traveled five hundred miles just to have the joy of seeing that little flower growing in the sandy swamp along Silver Run.

If you have never seen the witch-hazel in bloom, it will pay you to travel five hundred and five miles to see it. But you won't need to go so far,—unless you live beyond the prairies,—for the witch-hazel grows from Nova Scotia to Florida and west to Minnesota and Alabama.

There is one flower that, according to Mr. John Muir (and he surely knows!), it will pay one to travel away up into the highest Sierra to see. It is the fragrant Washington lily, "the finest of all the Sierra lilies," he says. "Its bulbs are buried in shaggy chaparral tangles, I suppose for safety from pawing bears; and its magnificent panicles sway and rock over the top of the rough snow-pressed bushes, while big, bold, blunt-nosed bees drone and mumble in its polleny bells. A lovely flower worth going hungry and footsore endless miles to see. The whole world seems richer now that I have found this plant in so noble a landscape."

And so it seemed to the old botanist who came five hundred miles to find the tiny pyxie in the sandy swamps of southern New Jersey. So it will seem to you—the whole world will not only seem  richer, but will be  richer for you—when you have found the witch-hazel bush all covered with summer's gold in the bleak woods of November.


You ought to see a big pile of golden pumpkins in some farmhouse shed or beside the great barn door. You ought to see a field of corn in the shock; hay in a barn mow; the jars of fruit, the potatoes, apples, and great chunks of wood in the farmhouse cellar. You ought to see how a farmer gets ready for the winter—the comfort, the plenty, the sufficiency of it all!


You ought to see how the muskrats, too, get ready for the winter, and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the frogs—everything. Winter is coming. The cold will kill—if it has a chance. But see how it has no chance. How is it that the bees will buzz, the flowers open, the birds sing, the frogs croak again next spring as if there had been no freezing, killing weather? Go out and see why for yourselves.


You ought to see the tiny seed "birds" from the gray birches, scattering on the autumn winds; the thistledown, too; and a dozen other of the winged, and plumed, and ballooned, seeds that sail on the wings of the winds. You should see the burdock burs in the cows' tails when they come home from the pasture, and the stick-tights and beggar-needles in your own coat-tails when you come home from the pastures.

And seeing that, you should think— for that is what real seeing means. Think what? Why, that you are just as good as a cow's tail to scatter Nature's seeds for her, and not a bit better, as she sees you.


You ought to see the migrating birds as they begin to flock on the telegraph wires, in the chimneys, and among the reeds of the river. You ought to see the swallows, blackbirds, robins, and bluebirds, as they flock together for the long southern flight. There are days in late September and in early October when the very air seems to be half of birds, especially toward nightfall, if the sun sets full and clear: birds going over; birds diving and darting about you; birds along the rails and ridge-poles; birds in the grass under your feet—birds everywhere. You should be out among them where you can see them. And especially you should see—without fail, this autumn and every autumn—the wedge of wild geese cleaving the dull gray sky in their thrilling journey down from the far-off frozen North.