There is a season for everything, and we do not notice a given phenomenon at any other season, if, indeed, it can be called the same phenomenon at any other season. There is a time to watch the ripples on Ripple Lake, to look for arrowheads, to study the rocks and lichens, a time to walk on sandy deserts; and the observer of nature must improve these seasons as much as the farmer his. So boys fly kites and play ball or hawkie at particular times all over the State. A wise man will know what game to play to-day, and play it.
They told me at New Bedford that one of their whalers came in the other day with a black man aboard whom they had picked up swimming in the broad Atlantic, without anything to support him, but nobody could understand his language or tell where he came from. He was in good condition and well-behaved. My respect for my race rose several degrees when I heard this, and I thought they had found the true merman at last. “What became of him?” I inquired. “I believe they sent him to the State Almshouse,” was the reply. Could anything have been more ridiculous? That he should be beholden to Massachusetts for his support who floated free where Massachusetts with her State Almshouse could not have supported herself for a moment. They should have dined him, then accompanied him to the nearest cape and bidden him good-by.
I want things to be incredible,—too good to appear true. C. says, “After you have been to the post-office once you are damned!” But I answer that it depends somewhat on whether you get a letter or not. If you should not get a letter there is some hope for you. If you would be wise, learn science and then forget it. A boat on the river, on the white surface, looks black, and the boatman like Charon. I see swarms of gnats in the air. What is that grass with a yellow blossom which I find now on the Cliff? It is the contrast between sunshine and storm that is most pleasing; the gleams of sunshine in the midst of the storm are most memorable. Saw that winkle-like fungus, fresh and green, covering an oak stump to-day with concentric marks, spirally arranged, sometimes in a circle, very handsome. I love this apparent exuberance of nature.
The birds are singing in the rain about the small pond in front, the inquisitive chickadee that has flown at once to the alders to reconnoiter us, the blackbirds, the song sparrow, telling of expanding buds. But above all the robin sings here too, I know not at what distance in the wood. “Did he sing thus in Indian days?” I ask myself; for I have always associated this sound with the village and the clearing, but now I do detect the aboriginal wildness in his strain, and can imagine him a woodland bird, and that he sang thus when there was no civilized ear to hear him, a pure forest melody even like the wood thrush. Every genuine thing retains this tone, which no true culture displaces. I heard him even as he might have sounded to the Indian, singing at evening upon the elm above his wigwam, with which was associated in the red man’s mind the events of an Indian’s life, his childhood. Formerly I had heard in it only those strains which tell of the white man’s village life; now I heard those strains which remembered the red man’s life, when these arrowheads, which the rain has made shine so on the lean stubble-field, were fastened to their shaft.
Great thoughts hallow any labor. To-day I earned seventy-five cents heaving manure out of a pen, and made a good bargain of it. If the ditcher muses the while how he may live uprightly, the ditching spade and turf knife may be engraved on the coat-of-arms of his posterity.
A man came to me yesterday to offer me as a naturalist a two-headed calf which his cow had brought forth, but I felt nothing but disgust at the idea and began to ask myself what enormity I had committed to have such an offer made to me. I am not interested in mere phenomena, though it were the explosion of a planet, only as it may have lain in the experience of a human being.
I am looking for acorns these days, to sow on the Walden lot, but can find very few sound ones. Those which the squirrels have not got are mostly worm-eaten and quite pulverized or decayed. A few which are cracked at the small (end), having started last fall, have yet life in them, perhaps enough to plant. Even these look rather discolored when you cut them open, but Buttrick says they will do for pigeon-bait. So each man looks at things from his own point of view. I found by trial that the last or apparently sound acorns would always sink in water, while the rotten ones would float, and I have accordingly offered five cents a quart for such as will sink.