Saturday, May 14, 2011


The Green Land

In my personal pantheon of 20th century nature writers, Hal Borland (1900-1978) is a minor deity (inferior to Edwin Way Teale, Joseph Wood Krutch, Donald Culross Peattie, and Berndt Heinrich). He's still worth reading, however, and I often take one of his books down from the shelf. Today is his birthday, and here is what he wrote in his entry for this day in Sundial of the Seasons, under the heading The Green Land:
We think of this as the time of Spring flowers, fruit blossoms, lilacs. Actually, it is the time of leaves, the time of the countless greens which have not yet settled and matured into the standard green of Summer. This is the time when there is a whole spectrum of green across the land, when the whole world is dappled and misted as with a gently drifting haze whose color ranges from greenish yellow to greenish blue.

See the hills. On the ridges stand the pines and hemlocks and spruces, the dark masses of shadowy needles that not long ago, against the gray sky and the white snow, looked almost black. Now they are a deep, vivid green, warming with the lighter green of new needle tufts fresh from the bud scales. Just below them stand the birches, feathery with new leaves still so small you can see the white boles through their haze of lemony green. Then the poplars, a faint shade darker and twinkling in the breeze, already showing the silvery undersides of their young leaves. And the elms, darkest of all, and the maples, a fresher green than the elms.

See the valleys, with their emerald of urgent grasses, their pink and white of apple blossoms, white of wild plum, vivid yellow-green of willow. And the deep green of violet leaves, the light green of day lilies, the insubstantial-looking mist of varied greens on the osier bushes, the viburnums, the briars of all kinds. Even the river is green, reflecting its own green banks.

Green, the color of growth, of surgent life, enwraps the land. New green, still as individual as the plants themselves. Cool green, which will merge as the weeks pass, the Summer comes, into a canopy of shade of busy chlorophyll.
Isaak Levitan, Birch Grove

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