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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog


Archives for May, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

HENRY THOREAU, TRAIN-WINDOW BOTANIST, by Tim Athan

drawing of Henry David Thoreau

One May 21, 1861, Henry David Thoreau passed through Ann Arbor on the Michigan Central Railroad. The poet and naturalist didn't disembark (he was en route to Minnesota), but in his journal, he jotted down a few observations:

Detroit to Chicago. Very level to [Ypsilanti], then hilly to Ann Arbor, then less hilly to Lake Michigan. All hard wood or no evergreen except some white pine, when we struck Lake Michigan, on the sands from the lake partly & some larch before. Phlox varying from white to bluish & painted cup: deep scarlet & also yellow ? or was this wall flower? All very very common thru' Michigan & the former, at least, earlier.

An Amtrak rider today would see the same landscape, but our springs come earlier. By now, the phlox has blossomed and faded.

Thoreau returned home in Concord, where he died of tuberculosis the following May. He was forty-four.

Posted by John Hilton at 11:40 a.m. | 1 comment Bookmark and Share


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