12.31.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 31-Dec-1853

The notes of the wood thrush and the sounds of a vibrating chord, these affect me as many sounds once did often, and as almost all should. The strains of the aolian harp and of the wood are the truest and loftiest preachers that I know now left on this earth. I know of no missionaries to us heathen comparable to them. They, as it were, lift us up in spite of ourselves. They intoxicate, they charm us. Where was that strain mixed into which this world was dropped but as a lump of sugar to sweeten the draught? I would be drunk, drunk, drunk, dead drunk to this world with it forever. He that hath ears, let him hear. The contact of sound with a human ear whose hearing is pure and unimpaired is coincident with an ecstasy. Sugar is not so sweet to the palate, as sound to the healthy ear; the hearing of it makes men brave.

12.30.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 30-Dec-1851

This afternoon, being on Fair Haven Hill, I heard the sound of a saw, and soon after from the Cliff saw two men sawing down a noble pine beneath, about forty rods off. I resolved to watch it till it fell, the last of a dozen or more which were left when the forest was cut and for fifteen years have waved in solitary majesty over the sprout-land. I saw them like beavers or insects gnawing at the trunk of this noble tree, the diminutive manikins with their cross-cut saw which could scarcely span it. It towered up a hundred feet as I afterward found by measurement, one of the tallest probably in the township and straight as an arrow, but slanting a little toward the hillside, its top seen against the frozen river and the hills of Conantum. I watch closely to see when it begins to move. Now the sawers stop, and with an axe open it a little on the side toward which it leans, that it may break the faster. And now their saw goes again. Now surely it is going; it is inclined one quarter of the quadrant, and, breathless, I expect its crashing fall. But no, I was mistaken; it has not moved an inch; it stands at the same angle as at first. It is fifteen minutes yet to its fall. Still its branches wave in the wind, as it were destined to stand for a century, and the wind soughs through its needles as of yore; it is still a forest tree, the most majestic tree that waves over Musketaquid. The silvery sheen of the sunlight is reflected from its needles; it still affords an inaccessible crotch for the squirrel’s nest; not a lichen has forsaken its mast-like stem, its raking mast,—the hill is the hulk. Now, now’s the moment! The manikins at its base are fleeing from their crime. They have dropped the guilty saw and axe. How slowly and majestic it starts! as it were only swayed by a summer breeze, and would return without a sigh to its location in the air. And now it fans the hillside with its fall, and it lies down to its bed in the valley, from which it is never to rise, as softly as a feather, folding its green mantle about it like a warrior, as if, tired of standing, it embraced the earth with silent joy, returning its elements to the dust again. But hark! there you only saw, but did not hear. There now comes up a deafening crash to these rocks , advertising you that even trees do not die without a groan. It rushes to embrace the earth, and mingle its elements with the dust. And now all is still once more and forever, both to eye and ear.

I went down and measured it. It was about four feet in diameter where it was sawed, about one hundred feet long. Before I had reached it the axemen had already divested it of its branches. Its gracefully spreading top was a perfect wreck on the hillside as if it had been made of glass, and the tender cones of one year’s growth upon its summit appealed in vain and too late to the mercy of the chopper. Already he has measured it with his axe, and marked off the mill-logs it will make. And the space it occupied in upper air is vacant for the next two centuries. It is lumber. He has laid waste the air. When the fish hawk in the spring revisits the banks of the Musketaquid, he will circle in vain to find his accustomed perch, and the hen-hawk will mourn for the pines lofty enough to protect her brood. A plant which it has taken two centuries to perfect, rising by slow stages into the heavens, has this afternoon ceased to exist. Its sapling top had expanded to this January thaw as the forerunner of summers to come. Why does not the village bell sound a knell? I hear no knell tolled. I see no procession of mourners in the streets, or the woodland aisles. The squirrel has leaped to another tree; the hawk has circled further off, and has now settled upon a new eyrie, but the woodman is preparing [to] lay his axe at the root of that also.

12.29.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 29-Dec-1853

We survive, in one sense, in our posterity and in the continuance of our race, but when a race of men, of Indians for instance, becomes extinct, is that not the end of the world for them? Is not the world forever beginning and coming to an end, both to men and races? Suppose we were to foresee that the Saxon race to which we belong would become extinct the present winter,—disappear from the face of the earth,—would it not look to us like the end of the world? Such is the prospect of the Indians.

12.28.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 28-Dec-1852

Both for bodily and mental health, court the present. Embrace health wherever you find her. A clump of birches raying out from one center make a more agreeable object than a single tree. The rosettes in the ice, as Channing calls them, now and for some time have attracted me.

12.27.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 27-Dec-1858

Talk of fate! How little one can know what is fated to one another!—what he can do an what he can not do! I doubt whether one can give or receive any pertinent advice. In all important crises one can only consult his genius. Though he were the most shiftless and craziest of mortals, if he still recognizes that he has any genius to consult, none may presume to go between him and her. They, methinks, are poor stuff and creatures of a miserable fate who can be advised and persuaded in very important steps. Show me a man whio consults his genius, and you have shown me a man who cannot be advised. You may know what a thing costs or is worth to you; you can never know what it costs or is worth to me. All the community may scream because one man is born who will not do as it does, who will not conform because conformity to him is death,—he is so constituted. They know nothing about his case; they are fools when they presume to advise him. The man of genius knows what he is aiming at; nobody else knows. And he alone knows when something comes between him and his object. In the course of generations, however, men will excuse you for not doing as they do, if you will bring enough to pass in your own way.

12.26.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 26-Dec-1841

He is the rich man and enjoys the fruits of riches, who, summer and winter forever, can find delight in the contemplation of his soul. I could look unweariedly up to that cope as into the heavens of a summer day or a winter night. When I hear this bell ring, I am carried back to years and Sabbaths when I was newer and more innocent. I fear, than now, and it seems to me as if there were a world within a world. Sin, I am sure, is not in overt acts or, indeed, in acts of any kind, but is in proportion to the time which has come behind us and displaced eternity,—that degree to which our elements are mixed with the elements of the world. The whole duty of life is contained in the question how ro respire and aspire both at once.

12.25.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 25-Dec-1856

A strong wind from the northwest is gathering the snow into pictutrersque drifts behind the walls. As usual they resemble shells more than anything, sometimes prows of vessels, also the folds of a white napkin or counterpane dropped over a bonneted head. There are no such picturesque snow-drifts as are formed behind loose and open stone walls. Already yesterday it had drifted so much, i.e. so much ground was bare, that there were as many carts as sleighs in the streets.

Just beyond Hubbard’s Bridge, on Conant’s Brook Meadow, I am surprised to find a tract of ice, some thirty by seven or eight rods, blown quite bare. It shows how unstable the snow is.

Sanborn got some white spruce and some usnea for Christmas in the swamp. I though the last would be the most interesting and weird.

On the north side of the walls we go over boots and get them full; then let ourselves down into the shellwork on the south side; so beyond the brows of hills.

At Lee’s Cliff I pushed aside the snow with my foot and got some fresh green catnip for Min.

I see the numerous tracks there, too, of foxes, or else hares, that have been running about in the light snow.

Called at the Conantum House. It grieves me to see these interesting relics, this and the house at the Baker Farm, going to complete ruin.

Met William Wheeler’s shaggy gray terrier, or Indian dog, going home. He got out of the road into the field and went around to avoid us.

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.

12.24.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 24-Dec-1856

More snow in the night and to-day, making nine or ten inches.

P.M.—To Walden and Baker Farm with Ricketson, it still snowing a little.

Turned off from railroad and went through Wheeler, or Owl Wood. The snow is very light, so that sleighs cut through it, and there is but little sleighing. It is very handsomer now on the trees by the main path in Wheeler Wood; also on the weeds and twigs that rise above the snow, resting on them just like down, light towers of down with the bare extremity of the twig peeping out above. We push through the light dust, throwing it before our legs as a husbandman grain which he is sowing. It is only in still paths in the woods that it rests in the trees much. Am surprised to find Walden still open in the middle. When I push aside the snow with my feet, the ice appears quite black by contrast. There is considerable snow on the edge of the pine woods where I used to live. It rests on the successive tiers of boughs, perhaps weighing them down, so that the trees are opened into great flakes from top to bottom. The snow collects and is piled up in little columns like down about every twig and stem, and this is only seen in perfection, complete to the last flake, while it is snowing, as now.

Returned across the pond and went across to Baker Farm.

12.23.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 23-Dec-1841

The best man’s spirit makes a fearful sprite to haunt his tomb. The ghost of a priest is no better than that of a highwayman. It is pleasant to hear of one who has blest whole regions after his death by having frequented them while alive, who has prophaned or tabooed no place by being buried in it. It adds not a little to the fame of Little John that his grave was long “celebrous for the yielding of excellent whetstones.”

A forest is in all mythologies a sacred place, as the oaks among the Druids and the grove of Egeria; and even in more familiar and common life a celebrated wood is spoken of with respect, as “Barnsdale Wood” and “Sherwood.” Had Robin Hood no Sherwood to resort [to], it would be difficult to invest his story with the charms it has got. It is always the tale that is untold, the deeds done and the life lived in the unexplored secrecy of the wood, that charm us and make us children again,—to read his ballads, and hear of the greenwood tree.

12.22.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 22-Dec-1850

In winter I can explore the swamps and ponds. It is a dark-aired winter day, yet I see the summer plants still peering above the snow. There are but few tracks in all this snow. It is the Yellow Knife River or the Saskatchewan. The large leafy lichens on the white pines, especially on the outside of the wood, look almost a golden yellow in the light reflected from the snow, while deeper in the wood they are ash-colored. In the swamps the dry, yellowish-colored fruit of the poison dogwood hangs like jewelry on long, drooping stems. It is pleasant to meet it, it has so much character relatively to man. Here is a stump on which a squirrel has sat and stripped the pine cones of a neighboring tree. Their cores and scales lie all around. He knew that they contained an almond before the naturalist did. He has long been a close observer of Nature; opens her caskets. I see more tracks in the swamps than elsewhere.

12.21.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 21-Dec-1851

My acquaintances sometimes imply that I am too cold; but each thing is warm enough of its kind. Is the stone too cold which absorbs the heat of the summer sun and does part with it during the night? Crystals, though they be of ice, are not too cold to melt, but it was in melting that they were formed. Cold! I am most sensible of warmth in winter days. It is not the warmth of fire that you would have, but everything is warm and cold according to its nature. It is not that I am too cold, but that our warmth and coldness are not of the same nature; hence when I am absolutely warmest, I may be coldest to you. Crystal does not complain of crystal any more than the dove of its mate. You who complain that I am cold find Nature cold. To me she is warm. My heat is latent to you. Fire itself is cold to whatever is not of a nature to be warmed by it. A cool wind is warmer to a feverish man than the air of a furnace. That I am cold means that I am of another nature.

12.20.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 20-Dec-1854

It has been a glorious winter day, its elements so simple,—the sharp clear air, the white snow everywhere covering the earth, and the polished ice. Cold as it is, the sun seems warmer on my back even than in summer, as if its rays met with less obstruction. And then the air is so beautifully still; there is not an insect in the air, and hardly a leaf to rustle.

12.19.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 19-Dec-1859

When a man is young and his constitution and his body have not acquired firmness, i.e., before he has arrived at middle age, he is not an assured inhabitant of the earth, and his compensation is that he is not quite earthy, there is something peculiarly tender and divine about him. His sentiments and his weakness, nay, his very sickness and the greater uncertainty of his fate, seem to ally him to a noble race of beings, to whom he in part belongs, or with whom he is in communication. The young man is a demigod;, the grown man, alas! is commonly a mere mortal. He is but half here, he knows not the men of this world, the powers that be. They know him not. Prompted by the reminiscence of that other sphere from which he is so lately arrived, his actions are unintelligible to his seniors. He bathes in light. He is interesting as a stranger from another sphere. He really thinks and talks about a larger sphere of existence than this world. It takes him forty years to accommodate himself to the carapax of this world. This is the age of poetry. Afterward he may be the president of a bank, and go the way of all flesh. But a man of settled views, whose thoughts are few and hardened like his bones, is truly mortal, and his only resource is to say his prayers.

12.18.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 18-Dec-1841

Some men make their due impression upon their generation, because a petty occasion is enough to call forth all their energies; but are there not others who would rise to much higher levels, whom the world has never provoked to make the effort? I believe there are men now living who have never opened their mouths in a public assembly, in whom nevertheless there is such a well of eloquence that the appetite of any age could never exhaust it; who pine for an occasion worthy of them, and will pine till they are dead; who can admire, as well as the rest, at the flowing speech of the orator, but do not yet miss the thunder and lightning and visible sympathy of the elements which would garnish their own utterance.

If in any strait I see a man fluttered and his ballast gone, then I lose all hope of him, he is undone; but if he reposes still, though he do nothing else worthy of him, if he is still a man in reserve, then is there everything to hope of him. The age may well go pine itself that it cannot put to use this gift of the gods. He lives on, still unconcerned, not needing to be used. The greatest occasion will be the slowest to come.

12.17.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 17-Dec-1856

Yesterday afternoon I was running a line through the woods. How many days have I spent thus, sighting my way in direct lines through dense woods, through cat-briar and viburnum in New Jersey, through shrub oak in New England, requiring my axeman to shear off twigs and bushes and dead limbs and masses of withered leaves that obstruct the view, and then set up a freshly barked stake exactly on the line; looking at these barked stakes from far and near as if I loved them; not knowing where I shall come out; my duty then and there perhaps merely to locate a straight line between two points.

12.16.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 16-Dec-1850

There are wild men living along the shores of the Frozen Ocean. Who shall say that there is not as great an interval between the civilized man and the savage as between the savage and the brute? The undiscovered polar regions are the home of men.

I am struck with the difference between my feet and my hands. My feet are much nearer to foreign or inanimate matter or nature than my hands; they are more brute, they are more clod-like and lumpish, and I scarcely animate them.

12.15.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 15-Dec-1859

Philosophy is a Greek word by good rights, and it stands for almost a Greek thing. Yet some rumor of it has reached the commonest mind. M. Miles, who came to collect his wood bill to-day, said, when I objected to the small size of his wood, that it was necessary to split wood fine in order to cure it well, that he had found that wood that was more than four inches in diameter would not dry, and moreover a good deal depended on the manner in which it was corded up in the woods. He piled his high and tightly. If this were not well done the stakes would spread and the wood lie loosely, and so the rain and snow find their way into it. And he added, “I have handled a good deal of wood, and I think that I understand the philosophy of it.”

12.14.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 14-Dec-1851

The boys have been skating for a week, but I have had no time to skate for surveying. I have hardly realized that there was ice, though I have walked over it about this business. As for the weather, all seasons are pretty much alike to one who is actively at work in the woods. I should say that there were two or three remarkably warm days and as many cold ones in the course of a year, but the reat are all alike in respect to temperature. This is my answer to acquaintances who ask me if I have not found it very cold being out all day.

12.13.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 13-Dec-1841

We constantly anticipate repose. Yet it surely can only be the repose that is in entire and healthy activity. It must be a repose without rust. What is leisure but opportunity for more complete and entire action? Our energies pine for exercise. That time we spend in our duties is so much leisure, so that there is no man but has sufficient of it.

I make my own time, I make my own terms. I cannot see how God or Nature can ever get the start of me.

12.12.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 12-Dec-1859

I am inclined to think of late that as much depends on the state of the bowels as of the stars. As are your bowels, so are the stars.

12.11.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 11-Dec-1855

When some rare northern bird like the pine grosbeak is seen thus far south in the winter, he does not suggest poverty, but dazzles us with his beauty. There is in them a warmth akin to the warmth that melts the icicle. Think of these brilliant, warm-colored, and richly warbling birds, birds of paradise, dainty-footed, downy-clad, in the midast of a New England, a Canadian winter. The woods and fields, now somewhat solitary, being deserted by their more tender summer residents, are now frequented by these rich but delicately tinted and hardy northern immigrants of the air. Here is no imperfection to be suggested. The winter, with its snow and ice, is not an evil to be corrected. It is as it was designed and made to be, for the artist has had leisure to add beauty to use. My acquaintances, angels from the north. I had a vision thus prospectively of these birds as I stood in the swamps. I saw this familiar—too familiar—fact at a different angle, and I was charmed and haunted by it. But I could only attain to be thrilled and enchanted, as by the sound of a strain of music dying away. I had seen into paradisaic regions, with the air and sky, and I was no longer wholly or merely a denizen of this vulgar earth. Yet had I hardly a foothold there. I was only sure that I was charmed, and no mistake. It was only necessary to behold thus the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance. Only what we have touched and worn is trivial,—our scurf, repetition, tradition, conformity. To perceive freshly, with fresh senses, is to be inspired. Great winter itself looked like a precious gem, reflecting rainbow colors from one angle.

Thoreau's Journal: 10-Dec-1854

Weather warmer; snow softened. Saw a large flock of snow buntings (quite white against woods, at any rate), though it is quite warm. Snow-fleas in paths; first I have seen. Hear the small woodpecker’s whistle; not much else; only crows and partridges else, and chickadees. How quickly the snow feels the warmer wind! The crust which was so firm and rigid is now suddenly softened and there is much water in the road.

12.09.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 09-Dec-1856

From a little east of Wyman's I look over the pond westward. The sun is near setting, away beyond Fair Haven. A bewitching stillness reigns through all the woodland and over the snow-clad landscape. Indeed, the winter day in the woods or fields has commonly the stillness of twilight. The pond is perfectly smooth and full of light. I hear only the strokes of a lingering woodchopper at a distance, and the melodious hooting of an owl, which is as common and marked a sound as the axe or locomotive whistle. Yet where does the ubiquitous hooter sit, and who sees him? In whose wood-lot is he to be found? Few eyes have rested on him hooting; few on him silent on his perch even. Yet cut away the woods never so much year after year, though the chopper has not seen him and only a grove or two is left, still his aboriginal voice is heard indefinitely far and sweet, mingled oft, in strange harmony, with the newly invented din of trade, like a sentence of Allegri sounded in our streets—hooting from invisible perch at his foes the woodchoppers, who are invading his domains. As the earth only a few inches beneath the surface is undisturbed and what it was anciently, so are heard still some primeval sounds in the air. Some of my townsmen I never see, and of a great proportion I do not hear the voices in a year, though they live within my horizon; but every week almost I hear the loud voice of the hooting owl, though I do not see the bird more than once in ten years.

12.08.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 08-Dec-1859

The expression “a liberal education” originally meant one worthy of freemen. Such is education simply in a true and broad sense. But education ordinarily so called—the learning of trades and professions which is designed to enable men to earn their living, or to fit them for a particular station in life—is servile.

12.07.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 07-Dec-1856

That grand old poem called Winter is round again without any connivance of mine. As I sit under Lee’s Cliff, where the snow is melted, amid sere pennyroyal and frost-bitten catnep, I look over my shoulder upon an arctic scene. I see with surprise the pond a dumb white surface of ice speckled with snow, just as so many winters before, where so lately were lapsing waves or smooth reflecting water. I see the holes which the pickerel-fisher has made, and I see him, too, retreating over the hills, drawing his sled behind him. The water is already skimmed over again there. I hear, too, the familiar belching voice of the pond. It seemed as if winter had come without any interval since midsummer, and I was prepared to see it flit away by the time I again looked over my shoulder. It was as if I had dreamed it. But I see that the farmers have had time to gather their harvests as usual, and the seasons have revolved as slowly as in the first autumn of my life. The winters come now as fast as snowflakes. It is wonderful that old men do not lose their reckoning. It was summer, and now again it is winter. Nature loves this rhyme so well that she never tires of repeating it. So sweet and wholesome is the winter, so simple and moderate, so satisfactory and perfect, that her children will never weary of it. What a poem! an epic in blank verse, enriched with a million tinkling rhymes. It is solid beauty. It has been subjected to the vicissitudes of millions of years of the gods, and not a single superfluous ornament remains. The severest and coldest of the immortal critics have shot their arrows at and pruned it till it cannot be amended.

12.06.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 06-Dec-1856

How every one of these leaves that are blown about the snow-crust or lie neglected beneath, soon to turn to mould! Not merely a matted mass of fibres like a sheet of paper, but a perfect organism and system in itself, so that no mortal has ever yet discerned or explored its beauty.

12.05.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 05-Dec-1856

My themes shall not be far-fetched. I will tell of homely every-day phenomena and adventures. Friends! Society! It seems to be that I have an abundance of it, there is so much that I rejoice and sympathize with, and men, too, that I never speak to but only know and think of. What you call bareness and poverty is to me simplicity. God could not be unkind to me if he should try. I love the winter, with its imprisonment and its cold, for it compels the prisoner to try new fields and resources. I love to have the river closed up for a season and a pause put to my boating, to be obliged to get my boat in. I shall launch it again in the spring with so much more pleasure. This is an advantage in point of abstinence and moderation compared with the seaside boating, where the boat ever lies on the shore. I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing without it at all other times. It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all. I find it invariably true, the poorer I am, the richer I am. What you consider my disadvantage, I consider my advantage. While you are pleased to get knowledge and culture in many ways, I am delighted to think that I am getting rid of them. I have never got over my surprise that I should have been born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too.

12.04.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 04-Dec-1850

Fair Haven Pond is now open, and there is no snow. It is a beautiful, almost Indian-summer, afternoon, though the air is more pure and glassy. The shrub oak fire burns briskly as seen from the Cliffs. The evergreens are greener than ever. I notice the row of dwarf willows advanced into the water in Fair Haven, three or four rods from the dry land, just at the lowest water-mark. You can get no disease but cold in such an atmosphere.

Though the sun is now an hour high, there is a peculiar bright light on the pines and on their stems. The lichens on their bark reflect it. In the horizon I see a succession of the brows of hills, bare or covered with wood,— look over the eyebrows of the recumbent earth. These are separated by long valleys filled with vapory haze.

If there is a little more warmth than usual at this season, then the beautiful air which belongs to winter is perceived and appreciated.

12.03.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 03-Dec-1856

Mizzles and rains all day, making sloshy walking which sends us all to the shoemaker’s. Bought me a pair of cowhide boots, to be prepared for winter walks. The shoemaker praised them because they were made a year ago. I feel like an armed man now. The man who has bought his boots feels like him who has got in his winter’s wood. There they stand beside me in the chamber, expectant, dreaming of far woods and wood-paths, of frost-bound or sloshy roads, of being bound with skate-traps and clogged with ice-dust.

12.02.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 02-Dec-1856

Got in my boat, which before I had got out and turned up on the bank. It made me sweat to wheel it home through the snow, I am so unused to the work of late.

Then walked up the railroad. The clear straw-colored grass and some weeds contrasting with the snow it rises above. Saw little in this walk. Saw Melvin’s lank bluish-white black-spotted hound, and Melvin with his gun near, going home at eve. He follows hunting, praise be to him, as regularly in our tame fields as the farmers follow farming. Persistent Genius! How I respect him and thank him for him! I trust the Lord will provide us with another Melvin when he is gone. How good in him to follow his own bent, and not continue at the Sabbath-school all his days! What a wealth he thus becomes in the neighborhood! Few know how to take the census. I thank my stars for Melvin. I think of him with gratitude when I am going to sleep, grateful that he exists,— that Melvin who is such a trial to his mother. Yet he is agreeable to me as a tinge of russet on the hillside. I would fain give thanks morning and evening for my blessings. Awkward, gawky, loose-hung, dragging his legs after him. He is my contemporary and neighbor. He is one tribe, I am another, and we are not at war

12.01.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 01-Dec-1856

I see the old pale-faced farmer out again on his sled now for the five-thousandth time,—Cyrus Hubbard, a man of a certain New England probity and worth, immortal and natural, like a natural product, like the sweetness of a nut, like the toughness of hickory. He, too, is a redeemer for me. How superior actually to the faith he professes! He is not an office-seeker. What an institution, what a revelation is a man! We are wont foolishly to think that the creed which a man professes is more significant than the fact he is. It matters not how hard the conditions seemed, how mean the world, for a man is a prevalent force and a new law himself. He is a system whose law is to be observed. The old farmer condescends to countenance still this nature and order of things. It is a great encouragement that an honest man makes this world his abode. He rides on the sled drawn by oxen, world-wise, yet comparatively so young, as if they had seen scores of winters. The farmer spoke to me, I can swear, clean, cold, moderate as the snow. He does not melt the snow where he treads. Yet what a faint impression that encounter may make on me after all! Moderate, natural, true, as if he were made of earth, stone, wood, snow. I thus meet in this universe kindred of mine, composed of these elements. I see men like frogs; their peeping I partially understand.

11.30.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 30-Nov-1855

On the 27th, when I made my last voyage for the season, I found a large sound pine log about four feet long floating, and brought it home. Off the larger end I sawed two large wheels, about a foot in diameter and seven or eight inches thick, and I fitted to them an axle-tree made of a joist, which also I found in the river, and thus I had a convenient pair of wheels on which to get my boat up and roll it about. The assessors cajoled me into their office this year and said they wished to get an inventory of my property; asked if I had any real estate. No. Any notes at interest or railroad shares? No. Any taxable property? None that I know of. “I own a boat,” I said; and one of them thought that that might come under the head of a pleasure carriage, which is taxable. Now that I have wheels to it, it comes nearer to it. I was pleased to get my boat by this means rather than on a borrowed wheelbarrow. It was fit that the river should furnish the material, and that in my last voyage on it, when the ice reminded me that it was time to put in winter quarters.

11.29.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 29-Nov-1858

About three inches of snow fell last evening, and a few cows on the hillside have wandered about in vain to come at the grass. They have at length found that place high on the south side where the snow is thinnest.

How bright and light the day now! Methinks it is as good as half an hour added to the day. White houses no longer stand out and stare in the landscape. The pine woods snowed up look more like the bare oak woods with their gray boughs. The river meadows show now far off a dull straw-color or pale brown amid the general white, where the coarse sedge rises above the snow; and distant oak woods are now more distinctly reddish. It is a clear and pleasant winter day. The snow has taken all the November out of the sky. Now blue shadow, green rivers,—both which I see,—and still winter life.

11.28.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 28-Nov-1858

A gray, overcast, still day, and more small birds—tree sparrows and chickadees—than usual about the house. There have been a very few fine snowflakes falling for many hours, and now by 2 P. M., a regular snow-storm has commenced, fine flakes falling steadily, and rapidly whitening all the landscape. In half an hour the russet earth is painted white even to the horizon. Do we know of any other so silent and sudden a change?

I cannot now walk without leaving a track behind me; that is one peculiarity of winter walking. Anybody may follow my trail. I have walked, perhaps, a particular wild path along some swamp-side all summer, and thought to myself, I am the only villager that ever comes here. But I go out shortly after the first snow has fallen, and lo, here is the track of a sportsman and his dog in my secluded path, and probably he preceded me in the summer as well. Yet my hour is not his, and I may never meet him!

11.27.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 27-Nov-1857

Standing before Stacy’s large glass windows this morning, I saw that they were gloriously ground by the frost. I never saw such beautiful feather and fir-like frosting. His windows are filled with fancy articles and toys for Christmas and New Year’s presents, but this delicate and graceful outside frosting surpassed them all infinitely. I saw countless feathers with very distinct midribs and fine pinnae. The half of a trunk seemed to rise in each case up along the sash, and these feathers branched off from it all the way, sometimes nearly horizontally. Other crystals looked like pine plumes the size of life. If glass could be ground to look like this, how glorious it would be!

Thoreau's Journal: 26-Nov-1855

Bottom of boat covered with ice. The ice next the shore bore me and my boat.

11.25.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 25-Nov-1850

I feel a little alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. I would fain forget all my morning’s occupation, my obligations to society. But sometimes it happens that I cannot easily shake off the village; the thought of some work, some surveying, will run in my head, and I am not where my body is, I am out of my senses like a bird or beast. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

Thoreau's Journal: 24-Nov-1860

The first spitting of snow—a flurry or squall—from out a gray or slate-colored cloud that came up from the west. This consisted almost entirely of pellets an eight of an inch or less in diameter. These drove along almost horizontally, or curving upward like the outline of a breaker, before the strong and chilling wind. The plowed fields were for a short time whitened with them. The green moss about the bases of trees was very prettily spotted white with them, and also the large beds of cladonia in the pastures. They come to contrast with the red cockspur lichens on the stumps, which you had not noticed before. Striling against the trunks of the trees on the west side they fell and accumulated in a white line at the base. Though a slight touch, this was the first wintry scene of the season. The air was so filled with these snow pellets that we could not see a hill half a mile off for an hour. The hands seek the warmth of the pockets, and fingers are so benumbed that you cannot open your jack-knife. The rabbits in the swamps enjoy it, as well as you. Methinks the winter gives them more liberty, like a night.

11.23.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 23-Nov-1860

Most of us are still related to our native fields as the navigator to undiscovered islands in the sea. We can any autumn discover a new fruit there which will surprise us by its beauty or sweetness. So long as I saw one or two kinds of berries in my walks whose names I did not know, the proportion of the unknown seemed indefinitely if not infinitely great.

11.22.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 22-Nov-1860

You walk fast and far, and every apple left out is grateful yo your invigorated taste. You enjoy not only the bracing coolness, but all the heat and sunlight that there is, reflected back to you from earth. The sandy road itself, lit by the November sun, is beautiful. Shrub oaks and young oaks generally, and hazel bushed and other hardy shrubs, now more or less bare, are your companions, as if it were an iron age, yet in simplicity, innocence, and strength a golden one.

11.21.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 21-Nov-1850

I saw Fair Haven Pond with its island, and meadow between the island and the shore, and a strip of perfectly still ands smooth water in the lee of the island, and two hawks, fish hawks perhaps, sailing over it. I did not see how it could be improved. Yet I do not see what these things can be. I begin to see such an object when I cease to understand it and see that I did not realize or appreciate it before, but I get no further than this. How adapted these forms and colors to my eye! A meadow and an island! What are these things! Yet the hawks and the ducks keep so aloof! and Nature is so reserved! I am made to love the pond and the meadow, as the wind is made to ripple the water.

11.20.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 20-Nov-1853

I once came near speculating in cranberries. Being put to it to raise the wind to pay for “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” and having occasion to go to New York to peddle some pencils which I had made, as I passed through Boston I went to Quincy Market and inquired the price of cranberries. The dealers took me down cellar, asked if I wanted wet or dry, and showed me them. I gave them to understand that I might want an indefinite quantity. It made a slight sensation among them and for aught I know raised the price of the berry for a time. I then visited various New York packets and was told what would be the freight, on deck and in the hold, and one skipper was very anxious for my freight. When I got to New York, I again visited the markets as a purchaser, and "the best of the Eastern Cranberries" were offered me by the barrel at a cheaper rate than I could buy them in Boston. I was obliged to manufacture a thousand dollars’ worth of pencils and slowly dispose of and finally sacrifice them, in order to pay an assumed debt of a hundred dollars.

Thoreau's Journal: 19-Nov-1851

Old Mr. Joseph Hosmer, who helped me to-day, said that he used to know all about the lots, but since they’ve chopped off so much, and the woods have grown up, he finds himself lost. Thirty of forty years ago, when he went to meeting, he knew every face in the meeting-house, even the boys and girls, they looked so much like their parents; but after ten or twelve years they would have outgrown his knowledge entirely (they would have altered so), but he knew the old folks still, because they held their own and didn’t alter. Just so he could tell the boundaries of the old wood which hadn’t been cut down, but the young wood altered so much in a few years that he couldn’t tell anything about it. When I asked why the old road which went by this swamp was so roundabout, he said he would answer me as Mr. _____ _____ did him in a similar case once,—“Why, if they had made it straight, they wouldn’t have left any room for improvement.”

11.18.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 18-Nov-1857

In one light, these are old and worn-out fields that I ramble over, and men have gone to law about them long before I was born, but I trust that I ramble over them in a new fashion and redeem them.

11.17.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 17-Nov-1853

Are not more birds crushed under the feet of oxen than of horses?

Thoreau's Journal: 16-Nov-1850

The era of wild apples will soon be over. I wander through old orchards of great extent, now all gone to decay, all of native fruit which for the most part went to the cider-mill. But since the temperance reform and the general introduction of grafted fruit, no wild apples, such as I see everywhere in deserted pastures, and where the woods have grown up among them, are set out. I fear that he who walks over these hills a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor man! there are many pleasures which he will be debarred from.

11.15.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 15-Nov-1853

After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined, and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance. I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard, and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft.

11.14.2006

11.13.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 13-Nov-1851

A cold and dark afternoon, the sun being behind clouds in the west. The landscape is barren of objects, the trees being leafless, and so little light in the sky for variety. Such a day as will almost oblige a man to eat his own heart. A day in which you must hold on to life by your teeth. You can hardly ruck up any skin on Nature’s bones. The sap is down; she won’t peel. Now is the time to cut timber for yokes and ox-bows, leaving the tough bark on,—yokes for your own neck. Finding yourself yoked to Matter and to Time. Not a mosquito left. Not an insect to hum. Crickets gone into winter quarters. Friends long since gone there, and you left to walk on frozen ground, with your hands in your pockets. Ah, but is not this a time for deep inward fires?

Thoreau's Journal: 12-Nov-1859

I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream. Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are?

11.11.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 11-Nov-1851

“Says I to myself” should be the motto of my journal.

It is fatal to the writer to be too much possessed by his thought. Things must lie a little remote to be described.

11.10.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 10-Nov-1858

From Fair Haven Hill, using my glass, I think that I can see some of the snow of the 7th still left on the brow of Uncannuc. It is a light line, lying close along under the edge of a wood which covers the summit, which has protected it. I can understand how much nearer they must feel to winter who live in plain sight of that than we do. I think that I could not have detected the edge of the forest if it had not been for the snow.

11.09.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 09-Nov-1858

The newspaper tells me that Uncannunuc was white with snow for a short time on the morning of the 7th. Thus steadily but unobserved the winter steals down from the north, till from our highest hills we can discern its vanguard. Next week, perchance, our own hills will be white. Little did we think how near the winter was. It is as if a scout had brought in word that an enemy were approaching in force only a day’s march distant. Manchester was the spy this time, which has a camp at the base of that hill. We had not thought seriously of winter; we dwelt in fancied security yet.

11.08.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 08-Nov-1857

When the air is thick and the sky overcast, we need not walk so far. We give our attention to nearer objects, being less distracted from them. I take occasion to explore some near wood which my walks commonly overshoot.

What a difference it makes between two ravines in other respects exactly similar that in the one there is a stream which drains it, while the other is dry!

I see nowadays in various places the scattered feathers of robins, etc., where some hawk or beast of prey has torn them to pieces.

I step over the slip-noose which some woodling has just set. How long since men set snares for partridges and rabbits?

Ah, my friends, I know you better than you think, and love you better, too. The day after never, we will have an explanation.

11.07.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 07-Nov-1853

The notes of one or two small birds, this cold morning, in the now comparatively leafless woods, sound like a nail dropped on an anvil, or a glass pendant tinkling against its neighbor.

The sun now rises far southward. I see westward the earliest sunlight on the reddish oak leaves and the pines. The former appear to get more than their share. How soon the sun gets above the hills, as if he would accomplish his whole diurnal journey in a few hours at this rate! But it is a long way round, and these are nothing to the till of heaven. Whether we are idle or industrious, the sun is constantly traveling through the sky, consuming arc after arc of this great circle at this same rapid pace.

Nightshade berries still in water or over it. Great straggling flocks of crows still flying westerly.

Thoreau's Journal: 06-Nov-1858

I guessed at Goodwin’s age on the 1st. He is hale and stout and looks younger than he is, and I took care to set him high enough. I guessed he was fifty-five, and he said that if he lived two or three months longer he would be fifty-six. He then guess at my age, thought I was forty. He thought Emerson was a very young-looking man for his age. “But,” said he, “he has not been out ‘o nights as much as you have.”

11.05.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 05-Nov-1857

For a man to pride himself on this kind of wealth, as if it enriched him, is as ridiculous as if one struggling in the ocean with a bag of gold on his back should gasp out, “I am worth a hundred thousand dollars!” I see his ineffectual struggles just as plainly, and what it is that sinks him.

11.04.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 04-Nov-1852

Must be out-of-doors enough to get experience of wholesome reality, as a ballast to thought and sentiment. Health requires this relaxation, this aimless life. This life in the present. Let a man have thought what he will of Nature in the house, she will still be novel outdoors. I keep out of doors for the sake of the mineral, vegetable, and animal in me.

11.03.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 03-Nov-1861

After a violent easterly storm in the night, which clears up at noon, I noticvce that the surface of the railroad causeway, composed of gravel, is singularly marked, as if stratified like some slate rocks, on their edges, so that I can tell within a small fraction of a degree from what quarter the rain came. These lines, as it were of stratification, are perfectly parallel, and straight as a ruler, diagonally across the flat surface of the causeway for its whole length. Behind each little pebble, as a protecting boulder, an eight or a tenth of an inch in diameter, extends northwest a ridge of sand an inch or more, which it has protected from being washed away, while the heavy drops driven almost horizontally have washed out a furrow on each side, and on all sides are these ridges, half an inch apart and perfectly parallel.

All this is perfectly distinct to an observant eye, and yet could easily pass unnoticed by most. Thus each wind is self-registering.

11.02.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 02-Nov-1857

How contagious are boys’ games! A short time ago they were spinning tops, as I saw and heard, all the country over. Now every boy has a stick curved at the end, a hawkie (?), in his hand, whether in yards, or in distant lanes I meet them.

11.01.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 01-Nov-1858

As the afternoons grow shorter, and the early evening drives us home to complete our chores, we are reminded of the shortness of life, and become more pensive, at least in the twilight of the year. We are prompted to make haste and finish our work before the night comes. I leaned over a rail in the twilight on the Walden road, waited for the evening mail to be distributed, when such thoughts visited me. I seemed to recognize the November evening as a familiar thing come round again, and yet I could hardly tell whether I had ever known it or only divined it. The November twilights just begun! It appeared like part of a panorama at which I sat spectator, a part with which I was perfectly familiar just coming into view, and I foresaw how it would look and roll along, and prepared to be pleased. Just such a piece of art merely, though infinitely sweet and grand, did it appear to me, and just as little were any active duties required of me. We are independent on all that we see. The hangman whom I have seen cannot bury me. Such doubleness and distance does sight prove. Only the rich and such as are trouble with ennui are implicated in the maze of phenomena. You cannot see anything until you are clear of it. The long railroad causeway through the meadows west of me, the still twilight in which hardly a cricket was heard, the dark bank of clouds in the horizon long after sunset, the villagers crowding to the post-office, and the hastening home to supper by candle-light, had I not seen this all before! What new sweet was I to extract from it? Truly they mean that we shall learn our lesson well. Nature gets thumbed like an old spelling-book. The almshouse and Frederick were still as last November. I was no nearer, methinks, nor further off from my friends. Yet I sat the bench with perfect contentment, unwilling to exchange the familiar vision that was to be unrolled for any treasure or heaven that could be imagined. Sure to keep just so far apart in our orbits still, in the obedience to the laws of attraction and repulsion, affording each other only steady but indispensable starlight. It was as if I was promised the greatest novelty the world has ever seen or shall see, though the utmost possible novelty would be the difference between me and myself a year ago. This alone encouraged me, and was my fuel for the approaching winter. That we may behold the panorama with this slight improvement or change, this is what we sustain life for with so much effort from year to year.

10.31.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 31-Oct-1857

If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunk-cabbage buds already advanced toward a new year. Their gravestones are not bespoken yet. Who shall be sexton to them? Is it the winter of their discontent? Do they seem to have lain down to die, despairing of skunk cabbagedom? “Up and at ‘em,” Give it to ‘em,” “Excelsior,” “Put it through,”—these are their mottoes. Mortal human creatures must take a little respite in this fall of the year; their spirits do flag a little. There is a little questioning of destiny, and thinking to go like cowards to where the “weary shall be at rest.” But not so with the skunk-cabbage. Its withered leaves fall and are transfixed by a rising bud. Winter and death are ignored; the circle of life is complete. Are these false prophets? Is it a lie or a vain boast underneath the skunk-cabbage bud, pushing it upward and lifting the dead leaves with it? They rest with spears advanced; they rest to shoot!

I say it is good for me to be here, slumping in the mud, a trap covered with withered leaves. See those green cabbage buds lifting the dry leaves in that watery and muddy place. There is no can’t nor cant to them. They see over the brow of winter’s hill. They see another summer ahead.

10.30.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 30-Oct-1837

SUNRISE
First we have the gray twilight of the poets, with dark and barry clouds diverging to the zenith. Then glows the intruding cloud in the east, as if it bore a precious jewel in its bosom; a deep round gulf of golden gray indenting its upper edge, while slender rules of fleecy vapor, radiating fro the common centre, like light-armed troops, fall regularly into their places.

10.29.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 29-Oct-1858

Nature now, like an athlete, begins to strip herself in earnest for her contest with her great antagonist, Winter. In the bare trees and twigs what a display of muscle!

10.28.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 28-Oct-1853

For a year or two past, my publisher, falsely so called, has been writing from time to time to ask what disposition should be made of the copies of "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" still on hand, and at last suggesting that he had use for the room they occupied in his cellar. So I had them all sent to me here, and they have arrived to-day by express, filling the man's wagon,—706 copies out of an edition of 1000 which I bought of Munroe four years ago and have ever since been paying for, and have not quite paid for yet. The wares are sent to me at last, and I have an opportunity to examine my purchase. They are something more substantial than fame, as my back knows, which has borne them up two flights of stairs to a place similar to that to which they trace their origin. Of the remaining two hundred and ninety and odd, seventy-five were given away, the rest sold. I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.

10.27.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 27-Oct-1851

The obstacles which the heart meets with are like granite blocks which one alone cannot move. She who was as the morning light to me is now neither the morning star nor the evening star. We meet but to find each other further asunder, and the oftener we meet the more rapid our divergence. So a star of the first magnitude pales in the heavens, not from any fault in the observer’s eye nor from any fault in itself, perchance, but because its progress in its own system has put a greater distance between.

Thoreau's Journal: 26-Oct-1851

I awoke this morning to infinite regret. In my dream I had been riding, but the horses bit each other and occasioned endless trouble and anxiety, and it was my employment to hold their heads apart. Next I sailed over the sea in a small vessel such as the Northmen used, as it were to the Bay of Fundy, and thence overland I sailed, still over the shallows about the sources of rivers toward the deeper channel of a stream which emptied into the Gulf beyond,—the Miramichi, was it? Again I was in my own small pleasure-boat, learning to sail on the sea, and I raised my sail before my anchor, which I dragged far into the sea. I saw the buttons which had come off the coats of drowned men, and suddenly I saw my dog—when I knew not that I had one—standing in the sea up to his chin, to warm his legs, which had been wet, which the cool wind numbed. And then I was walking in a meadow, where the dry season permitted me to walk further than usual, and there I met Mr. Alcott, and we fell to quoting and referring to grand and pleasing couplets and single lines which we had read in times past; and I quoted one which in my waking hours I have no knowledge of, but in my dream it was familiar enough. I only know that those which I quoted expressed regret, and were like the following, though they were not these, viz.:—
“The short parenthesis of life was sweet,”
“The remembrances of youth is a sigh,” etc.
It had the word “memory” in it!! And then again the instant that I awoke, methought I was a musical instrument from which I heard a strain die out, a bugle, or a clarionet, or a flute. My body was the organ and channel of melody, as a flute is of the music that is breathed through it. My flesh sounded and vibrated still to the strain, and my nerves were the chords of the lyre. I awoke, therefore, to an infinite regret,—to find myself, not the thoroughfare of glorious and world-stirring inspirations, but a scuttle full of dirt, such a thoroughfare only as the street and the kennel, where, perchance, the wind may sometimes draw forth a strain of music from a straw.

10.25.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 25-Oct-1858

This is the coolest day thus far, reminding me that I have only a half-thick coat on. The easterly wind comes cold into my ear, as yet unused to it. Yet this first decided coolness—not to say wintriness—is not only bracing but exhilarating and concentrating [to] our forces. So much the more I have a hearth and heart within me. We step more briskly, and brace ourselves against the winter.

10.24.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 24-Oct-1837

Every part of nature teaches that the passing away of one life is the making room for another. The oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life to an infant forest. The pine leaves a sandy and sterile soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould.

So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap. If I grow pines and birches, my virgin mould will not sustain the oak; but pines or birches, or, perchance, weeds and brambles, will constitute my second growth.

10.23.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 23-Oct-1855

Now is the time for chestnuts. A stone cast against the trees shakes them down in showers upon one's head and shoulders. But I cannot excuse myself for using the stone. It is not innocent, it is not just, so to maltreat the tree that feeds us. I am not disturbed by considering that if I thus shorten its life I shall not enjoy its fruit so long, but am prompted to a more innocent course by motives purely of humanity. I sympathize with the tree, yet I heaved a big stone against the trunks like a robber,—not too good to commit murder. I trust that I shall never do it again. These gifts should be accepted, not merely with gentleness, but with a certain humble gratitude. The tree whose fruit we would obtain should not be too rudely shaken even. It is not a time of distress, when a little haste and violence even might be pardoned. It is worse than boorish, it is criminal, to inflict an unnecessary injury on the tree that feeds or shadows us. Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents, perchance. If you would learn the secrets of Nature, you must practice more humanity than others. The thought that I was robbing myself by injuring the tree did not occur to me, but I was affected as if I had cast a rock at a sentient being,—with a duller sense than my own, it is true, but yet a distant relation. Behold a man cutting down a tree to come at the fruit! What is the moral of such an act?

Thoreau's Journal: 22-Oct-1837

“What are you doing now?” he asked. “Do you keep a journal?” So I make my first entry to-day.

SOLITUDE
To be alone I find it necessary to escape the present,—I avoid myself. How could I be alone in the Roman emperor’s chamber of mirrors? I seek a garret. The spiders must not be disturbed, nor the floor swept, not the lumber arranged.

10.22.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 21-Oct-1857

Is not the poet bound to write his own biography? Is there any other work for him but a good journal? We do not wish to know how his imaginary hero, but how he, the actual hero, lived from day to day.

10.21.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 20-Oct-1857

I had gone but little way on the old Carlisle road when I saw Brooks Clark, who is now about eighty and bent like a bow, hastening along the road, barefooted, as usual, with an axe in his hand; was in haste perhaps on account of the cold wind on his bare feet. It is he who took the Centinel so long. When he got up to me, I saw that besides the axe in one hand, he had his shoes in the other, filled with knurly apples and a dead robin. He stopped and talked with me a few moments; said that we had had a noble autumn and might now expect some cold weather. I asked if he had found the robin dead. No, he said, he found it with its wing broken and killed it. He also added that he had found some apples in the woods, and as he had n't anything to carry them in, he put 'em in his shoes. They were queer-looking trays to carry fruit in. How many he got in along toward the toes, I don't know. I noticed, too, that his pockets were stuffed with them. His old tattered frock coat was hanging in strips about the skirts, as were his pantaloons about his naked feet. He appeared to have been out on a scout this gusty afternoon, to see what he could find, as the youngest boy might. It pleased me to see this cheery old man, with such a feeble hold on life, bent almost double, thus enjoying the evening of his days. Far be it from me to call it avarice or penury, this childlike delight in finding something in the woods or fields and carrying it home in the October evening, as a trophy to be added to his winter's store. Oh, no; he was happy to be Nature's pensioner still, and birdlike to pick up his living. Better his robin than your turkey, his shoes full of apples than your barrels full; they will be sweeter and suggest a better tale. He can afford to tell how he got them, and we to listen. There is an old wife, too, at home, to share them and hear how they were obtained. Like an old squirrel shuffling to his hole with a nut. Far less pleasing to me the loaded wain, more suggestive of avarice and of spiritual penury.

10.19.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 19-Oct-1859

Some eighteen hundred years ago Christ was crucified; this morning, perhaps, John Brown was hung. These are the two ends of a chain which I rejoice to know is not without its links.

The Republican editors, obliged to get their sentences ready for the morning edition,—and their dinner ready before afternoon,—speak of these men, not in a tone of admiration for their disinterestedness and heroism, not of sorrow even for their fate, but calling them “deluded fanatics,” “mistaken men,” “insane,” or “crazed.” Did it ever occur to you that a sane set of editors we are blessed with?—not “mistaken men;” who know very well on which side their bread is buttered!

10.18.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 18-Oct-1856

Men commonly exaggerate the theme. Some themes they think are significant and others insignificant. I feel that my life is very homely, my pleasures very cheap. Joy and sorrow, success and failure, grandeur and meanness, and indeed most words in the English language do not mean for me what they do for my neighbors. I see that my neighbors look with compassion on me, that they think it is a mean and unfortunate destiny which makes me to walk in these fields and woods so much and sail on this river alone. But as long as I find here the only real elysium, I cannot hesitate in my choice. My work is writing, and I do not hesitate, though I know that no subject is too trivial for me, tried by ordinary standards; for, ye fools, the theme is nothing, the life is everything. All that interests the reader is the depth and intensity of the life excited. We touch our subject but by a point which has no breadth, but the pyramid of our experience, or our interest in it, rests on us by a broader or narrower base. That is, man is all in all. Nature nothing, but as she draws him out and reflects him. Give me simple, cheap, and homely themes.

10.17.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 17-Oct-1857

The trainees are out with their band of music, and I find my account in it, though I have not subscribed for it. I am walking with a hill between me and the soldiers. I think, perhaps, it will be worth the while to keep within hearing of these strains this afternoon. Yet I hesitate. I am wont to find music unprofitable; it is a luxury. It is surprising, however, that so few habitually intoxicate themselves with music, so many with alcohol. I think, perchance, I may risk it, it will whet my senses so; it will reveal a glory where none was seen before. It is remarkable that men too must dress in bright colors and march to music once in the year. Nature, too, assumes her bright hues now, and think you a subtile music may not be heard amid the hills? No doubt these strains do sometimes suggest to Abner, walking behind in his red-streaked pants, an ideal which he had lost sight of, or never perceived. It is remarkable that our institutions can stand before music, it is so revolutionary.

10.16.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 16-Oct-1859

Talk about learning our letters and being literate! Why, the roots of letters are things. Natural objects and phenomena are the original symbols or types which express our thoughts and feelings, and yet American scholars, having little or no root in the soil, commonly strive with all their might to confine themselves to the imported symbols alone. All the true growth and experience, the living speech, they would fain reject as “Americanisms.” It is the old error, which the church, the state, the school ever commit, choosing darkness rather than light, holding fast to the old and to tradition. A more intimate knowledge, a deeper experience, will surely originate a word. When I really know that our river pursues a serpentine course to the Merrimack, shall I continue to describe it by referring to some other river no older than itself which is like it, and call it a meander? It is no more meandering than the Meander is musketaquidding. As well sing of the nightingale here as the Meander. What if there were a tariff on words, on language, for the encouragement of home manufacturers? Have we not the genius to coin our own? Let the schoolmaster distinguish the true from the counterfeit.

10.15.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 15-Oct-1859

Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation. We hear of cow commons and ministerial lots, but we want men-commons and lay lots, inalienable forever. Let us keep the New World new, preserve all the advantages of living in the country. There is meadow nad pasture and wood-lot for the town’s poor. Why not a forest and huckleberry field for the town’s rich? All Walden Wood might have been preserved for our park forever, with Walden in its midst, and the Easterbrooks Country, an unoccupied area of some four square miles, might have been our huckleberry-field. If any owners of these tracts are about to leave the world without natural heirs who need or deserve to be specially remembered, they will do wisely to abandon their possession to all, and not will them to some individual who perhaps has enough already. As some give to Harvard College or another institution, why might not another give a forest or huckleberry-field to Concord? A town is an institution which deserves to be remembered. We boast of our system of education, but why stop at schoolmasters and schoolhouses? We are all schoolmasters, and our schoolhouse is the universe. To attend chiefly to the desk or schoolhouse while we neglect the scenery in which it is placed is absurd. If we do not look out we shall find our fine schoolhouse standing in a cow-yard at last.

10.14.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 14-Oct-1857

It is indeed a golden autumn. These ten days are enough to make the reputation of any climate. A tradition of these days might be handed down to posterity. They deserve a notice in history, in the history of Concord. All kinds of crudities have a chance to get ripe this year. Was there ever such an autumn? And yet there was never such a panic and hard times in the commercial world. The merchants and banks are suspending and failing all the country over, but not the sand-banks, solid and warm, and streaked with blackberry vines. You may run upon them as much as you please,—even as the crickets do, and find their account in it. They are the stockholders in these banks, and I hear them creaking their content. You may see them on change any warmer hour. In these banks, too, and such as these, are my funds deposited, a fund of health and enjoyment. Their (the crickets) prosperity and happiness and, I trust, mine do not depend on whether the New York banks suspend or no. We do not rely on such a slender security as the thin paper of the Suffolk Bank. To put your trust in such a bank is to be swallowed up and undergo suffocation. Invest, I say, in these country banks. Let your capital be simplicity and contentment. Withered goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) is no failure, like a broken bank, and yet in its most golden season, nobody counterfeits it. Nature needs no counterfeit detector. I have no compassion for, nor sympathy with, this miserable state of things. Banks built of granite, after some Grecian or Roman style, with their porticoes and their safes of iron, are not so permanent, and cannot give me so good security for capital invested in them, as the heads of weathered hardhack in the meadow. I do not suspect the solvency of these. I know who is their president and cashier.

10.13.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 13-Oct-1857

The Great Fields from this hill are pale-brown, often hoary—there is not yellow enough for russet pastures, with very large red or purple patches of blackberry vines. You can only appreciate the effect of these by a strong and peculiar intention of the eye. We ordinarily do not see what is before us, but what our prejudices presume to be there.

10.11.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 11-Oct-1856

Farrar thought that the spirit manufactured a century ago was not so adulterated and poisonous as that now made. He could remember when delirium tremens was very rare. There was Luke Dodge; he could remember him a drunkard for more than forty years, yet he was now between eighty and ninety.

10.10.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 10-Oct-1858

Genius is inspired by its own works; it is hermaphroditic.

10.09.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 09-Oct-1857

It has come to this,—that the lover of art is one, and the lover of nature another, though true art is but the expression of our love of nature. It is monstrous when one cares but little about trees but much about Corinthian columns, and yet this is exceedingly common.

10.08.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 08-Oct-1851

In the forenoon commonly I see nature only through a window; in the afternoon my study or apartment in which I sit is a vale.

10.07.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 07-Oct-1857

One wonders that the tithing-men and fathers of the town are not out to see what the trees mean by their high colors and exuberance of spirits, fearing that some mischief is brewing. I do not see what the Puritans did at that season when the maples blazed out in scarlet. They certainly could not have worshipped in groves then. Perhaps that is what they built meeting-houses and surrounded them with horse-sheds for.

10.06.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 06-Oct-1857

Think what a change, unperceived by many, has within a month come over the landscape! Then the general, the universal, hue was green. Now see those brilliant scarlet and glowing yellow trees in the lowlands a mile off! I see them, too, here and there on the sides of hills, standing out distinct, mere bright and squads perchance, often in long broken lines, and so apparently elevated by their distinct color that they seem arranged like the remnants of a morning mist just retreating in a broken line along the hillsides. Or see that crowd in the swamp half a mile through, all vying one another, a blaze of glory. See those crimson patches far away on the hillsides, like dense flocks of crimson sheep, where the huckleberry reminds of recent excursions. See those patches of rich brown in the low grounds, where the ferns stand shriveled. See the greenish-yellow phalanxes of birches, and the crisped yellowish elm-tops here and there. We are not prepared to believe that the earth is now so parti-colored, and would present to a bird’s eye such distinct masses of bright yellow. A great painter is at work. The very pumpkins yellowing in the fields become a feature in the landscape, and thus they have shone, maybe, for a thousand years here.

10.05.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 05-Oct 1856

It is well to find your employment and amusement in simple and homely things. These wear best and yield most. I think I would rather watch the motions of these cows in their pasture for a day, which I see now headed all one way and slowly advancing,—watch them and project their course carefully on a chart, and report all their behavior faithfully,—than wander to Europe or Asia and watch other motions there; for it is only ourselves that we report in either case, and perchance we shall report a more restless and worthless self in the latter case than in the first.

Thoreau's Journal: 04-Oct-1859

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know. I do not get nearer by a hair’s breadth to any natural object so long as I presume that I have an introduction to it from some learned man. To conceive of it with a total apprehension I must for the thousandth time approach it as something totally strange. If you would make acquaintance with the ferns you must forget your botany.

10.03.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 03-Oct-1859

It is somewhat cooler and more autumnal. A great many leaves have fallen and the trees begin to look thin. You incline to sit in a sunny and sheltered place. This season, the fall, which we have now entered on, commenced, I may say, as long ago as when the first frost was seen and felt in low ground in August. From that time, even, the year has been gradually winding up its accounts. Cold, methinks, has been the great agent which has checked the growth of plants, condensed their energies, and caused their fruits to ripen, in September especially. Perchance man never ripens within the tropics.

10.02.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 02-Oct-1858

A dark and windy night the last. It is a new value when darkness amounts to something positive. Each morning now, after rain and wind, is fresher and cooler, and leaves still green reflect a brighter sheen.

Minott told me yesterday that he had never seen the seashore but once, and that was Noddle’s Island in the War of 1812.

The garden is alive with migrating sparrows these mornings. The cat comes in from an early walk amid the weeds. She is full of sparrows and wants no more breakfast this morning, unless it be a saucer of milk, the dear creature. I saw her studying ornithology between the corn-rows.

10.01.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 01-Oct-1858

The cat sleeps on her head! What does this portend? It is more alarming than a dozen comets. How long prejudice survives! The big-bodied fisherman asks me doubtingly about the comet seen these nights in the northwest,—if there is any danger to be apprehended from that side! I would fain suggest that only he is dangerous to himself.

9.29.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 29-Sep-1851

Found Hosmer carting out manure from under his barn to make room for the winter. He said he was tired of farming, he was too old. Quoted Webster as saying that he had never eaten the bread of idleness for a single day, and thought that the Lord Brougham might have said as much with truth while he was in the opposition, but he did not know that he could say as much of himself. However, he did not wish to be idle, he merely wished to rest.

9.28.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 28-Sep-1854

As I complain that the voyager to arctic regions, in his description of the scenery, does not enough remind the reader directly or indirectly of the peculiar dreariness of the scene or of the perpetual twilight of the arctic night, so he whose theme is moonlight will find it hard to illustrate it with the light of the moon alone.

9.27.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 27-Sep-1852

From Smith’s Hill I looked toward the mountain line. Who can believe that the mountain peak which he beholds fifty miles off in the horizon, rising far and faintly blue above an intermediate range, while he stands on his trivial native hills or in the dusty highway, can be the same with which he looked up at once near at hand from a gorge in the midst of primitive woods? For a part of two days I traveled across lots once, loitering by the way, through primitive wood and swamps over the highest peak of the Peterboro Hills to Monadnock, by ways from which all landlords and stage-drivers endeavored to dissuade us. It was not a month ago. But now that I look across the globe in an instant to the dim Monadnock peak, and these familiar fields and corpsewoods appear to occupy the greater part of the interval, I cannot realize that Joe Eavely’s house still stands there at the base of the mountain, and all that long tramp through wild woods with invigorating scents before I got to it. I cannot realize that on the tops of those cool blue ridges are in abundance berries still, bluer than themselves, as if they borrowed their blueness from their locality. From the mountains we do not discern our native hills; but from our native hills we look out easily to the far blue mountains, which seem to preside over them. As I look northwestward to that summit from a Concord cornfield, how little can I realize all the life that is passing between me and it,—the retired up-country farmhouses, the lonely mills, wooded vales, wild rocky pastures, and new clearings on stark mountain-sides, and rivers murmuring through primitive woods! All these, and how much more, I overlook. I see the very peak,—there can be no mistake,—but how much I do not see, that is between me and it! How much I overlook! In this way we see stars. What is it but a faint blue cloud, a mist that may vanish? But what is it, on the other hand, to one who has traveled to it day after day, has threaded the forest and climbed the hills that are between this and that, has tasted the raspberries or the blueberries that grow on it, and the springs that gush from it, has been wearied with climbing its rocky sides, felt the coolness of its summit, and been lost in the clouds there?

9.26.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 26-Sep-1852

The increasing scarlet and yellow tints around the meadows and the river remind me of the opening of a vast flower-bud; they are the petals of its corolla, which is of the width of the valleys. It is the flower of autumn, whose expanding bud just begins to blush.

9.25.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 25-Sep-1851

Some men are excited by the smell of burning powder, but I thought in my dream last night how much saner to be excited by the smell of new bread.

Thoreau's Journal: 24-Sep-1859

Though you may have sauntered near to heaven’s gate, when at length you return toward the village you give up the enterprise a little, and you begin to fall into the old ruts of thought, like a roadster. Your thoughts very properly fail to report themselves to headquarters. Your thoughts turn toward night and the evening mail and become begrimed with dust, as if you were just going to put up at (with?) the tavern, or even come to make an exchange with a brother clergyman here on the morrow.

9.23.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 23-Sep-1851

The telegraph harp sounds strongly to-day, in the midst of the rain. I put my ears to the trees and I hear it working terribly within, and anon it swells into a clear tone, which seems to concentrate in the core of the tree, for all the sound seems to proceed from the wood. It is as if you had entered some world-famous cathedral, resounding to some vast organ. The fibres of all things have their tension, and are strained like the strings of a lyre. I feel the very ground tremble under my feet as I stand near the post. The wire vibrates with great power, as if it would strain and rend the wood. What an awful an fateful music it must be to the worms in the wood! No better vermifuge were needed. No danger that worms will attack this wood; such vibrating music would thrill them to death. I scare up large flocks of sparrows in the garden.

9.22.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 22-Sep-1859

It is remarkable what a curse seems to attach to any place which has long been inhabited by man. Vermin of various kinds abide with him. It is said that the site of Babylon is a desert where the lion and the jackal prowl. If, as here, an ancient cellar is uncovered, there springs up at once a crop of rank and noxious weeds, evidence of a certain unwholesome fertility,—by which perchance the earth relieves herself of the poisonous qualities which have been imparted to her. As if what was foul, baleful, groveling, or obscene in the inhabitants had sunk into the earth and infected it. Certain qualities are there in excess in the soil, and the proper equilibrium will not be obtained until after the sun and the air have purified the spot. The very shade breeds saltpetre. Yet men value this kind of earth highly and will pay a price for it, as if it were as good a soil for virtue as for vice.

In other places you will find henbane and the Jamestown-weed and the like, in cellars,—such herbs as the witches are said to put into their caldron.

It would be fit that the tobacco plant should spring up on the house-site, aye on the grave, of almost every householder of Concord. These vile weeds are sown by vile men. When the house is gone they spring up in the corners of cellars where the cider-casks stood always on tap, for murder and all kindred vices will out. And that rank crowd which lines the gutter, where the wash of the dinner dishes flows, are but distant parasites of the host. What obscene and poisonous weeds, think you, will mark the site of a Slave State?—what kind of Jamestown-weed?

9.21.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 21-Sep-1854

I sometimes seem to myself to owe all my little success, all for which men commend me, to my vices. I am perhaps more willful than others and make enormous sacrifices, even of others’ happiness, it may be, to gain my ends. It would seem even as if nothing good could be accomplished without some vice to aid in it.

9.20.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 20-Sep-1851

As I go through the fields, endeavoring to recover my tone and sanity and to perceive things truly and simply again, after having been perambulating the bounds of the town all week, and dealing with the most commonplace and worldly-minded men, and emphatically trivial things, I feel as I had committed suicide in a sense. I am again forcibly struck with the truth of the fable of Apollo serving King Admetus, its universal applicability. A fatal coarseness is the result of mixing in the trivial affairs of men. Though I have been associating even with the select men of this and the surrounding towns, I feel inexpressibly begrimed. My Pegasus has lost his wings; he has turned a reptile and gone on his belly. Such things are compatible only with a cheap and superficial life.

The poet must keep himself unstained and aloof. Let him perambulate the bounds of Imagination’s provinces, the realm of faery, and not the insignificant boundaries of towns. The excursions of the imagination are so boundless, the limits of the town so petty.

9.19.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 19-Sep-1854

Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad to read them the next winter. I realized how incomparably great the advantages of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy-free. I have given myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them, and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when they opened; I could have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the changing tints of the foliage. Ah, how I have thriven on solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this advantage. I do not see how I could have enjoyed it, if the public had been expecting as much of me as there is danger now that they will. If I go abroad lecturing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter?

9.18.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 18-Sep-1859

Dr. Bartlett handed me a paper to-day, desiring me to subscribe for a statue to Horace Mann. I declined, and said that I thought a man ought not any more to take up room in the world after he was dead. We shall lose one advantage of a man’s dying if we are to have a statue of him forthwith. This is probably meant to be an opposition statue to that of Webster. At this rate they will crowd the streets with them. A man will have to add a clause to his will, “No statue to be made of me.” It is very offensive to my imagination to see the dying stiffen into statues at this rate. We should wait till their bones begin to crumble—and then avoid too near a likeness to the living.

Thoreau's Journal: 17-Sep-1839

Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. The bud swells imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as though the short spring days were an eternity. All her operations seem separately for the time, the single object for which all things tarry. Why, then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the least deed? Let him consume never so many eons, so that he go about the meanest task well, though it be but the paring of his nails. If the setting sun seems to hurry him to improve the day while it lasts, the chant of the crickets fails not to reassure him, even-measured as of old, teaching him to take his own time henceforth forever. The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient. He each moment abides there where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step, while others never relax the muscles of the leg till the accumulated fatigue obliges them to stop short.

As the wise is not anxious that time wait for him, neither does he wait for it.

9.16.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 16-Sep-1858

When I awake I hear the sound of steady heavy rain. A southeast storm. Our peach tree limbs are broken off by it. It lasts all day, rains a great deal, and scatters many elm boughs and leaves over the street. The wind does damage out of proportion to its strength. The fact is, the trees are unprepared to resist a wind from this quarter and, being loaded with foliage and fruit, suffer so much the more. There will be many windfalls, and fruit will be cheap for awhile.

9.15.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 15-Sep-1856

Sophia says, bringing company into my sanctum, by way of apology, that I regard the dust on my furniture like the bloom on fruits, not to be swept off. Which reminds me that the bloom on fruits and stems is the only dust which settles on Nature’s furniture.

9.14.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 14-Sep-1855

It costs so much to publish, would it not be better for the author to put his manuscripts in a safe?

9.13.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 13-Sep-1852

How earnestly and rapidly each creature, each flower, is fulfilling its part while its day lasts! Nature never lost a day, nor a moment. As the planet in its orbit and around its axis, so do the seasons, so does time, revolve, with a rapidity inconceivable. In the moment, in the eon, well employed, time ever advances with this rapidity. To an idler the man employed is terribly rapid. He that is not behind his time is swift. The immortals are swift. Clear the track! The plant that waited a whole year, and then blossomed the instant it was ready and the earth was ready for it, without the conception of delay, was rapid. To the conscience of the idle man, the stillness of a placid September day sounds like the din and whirl of a factory. Only employment can still this din in the air.

Thoreau's Journal: 12-Sep-1841

Where I have been
There was none seen.

9.11.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 11-Sep-1852

Genius is like the snapping-turtle, born with a great developed head. They say our brain at birth is one-sixth the weight of our body.

Thoreau's Journal: 10-Sep-1860

Leaving Lowell at 7 A.M. in the cars, I observed and admired the dew on a fine grass in the meadows, which was almost as white and silvery as frost when the rays of the newly risen sun fell on it. Some of it was probably the frost of the morning melted. I saw that this phenomenon was confined to one species of grass, which grew in narrow curving lines and small patches along the edges of the meadows or lowest ground,—a grass with very fine stems and branches, which held the dew; in short, that it was what I had falsely called Eragrostic capillaries, but which is probably the Sporobolus serotinus, almost the only, if not the only, grass there in its prime. And thus the plant has its day. Owing to the number of its very fine branches, now in their prime, it holds the dew like a cobweb,—a clear drop at the end and lesser drops or beads all along the fine branches and stems. It grows on the higher parts of the meadow, where other herbage is thin, and is the less apt to be cut; and, seen toward the sun not long after sunrise, it is very conspicuous and bright a quarter of a mile off, like frost work. Call it dew-grass. I find its hyaline seed.

Almost every plant, however humble, has thus its day, and sooner or later becomes the characteristic feature of some part of the landscape or other.

9.09.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 09-Sep-1851

There is a low vapor in the meadows beyond the depot, dense and white, though scarcely higher than a man’s head, concealing the stems of the trees. I see that the oaks, which are so dark and distinctly outlined, are illumined by the moon on the opposite side. This as I go up the back road. A few thin, ineffectual clouds in the sky. I come out thus into the moonlit night, where men are not, as if into a scenery anciently deserted by men. The life of men is like a dream. It is three thousand years since night has had possession. Go forth and hear the crickets chirp at night. Hear if their dynasty is not an ancient one and well founded. I feel the antiquity of the night. She surely repossesses herself of her realms, as if her dynasty were uninterrupted, or she had underlain the day.

Thoreau's Journal: 08-Sep-1859

The 7th, 8th, and 9th, the State muster is held here. The only observation I have to make is that [Concord] is fuller of dust and more uninhabitable than I ever knew it to be before. Not only the walls, fences, and houses are thickly covered with dust, but the fields and meadows and bushes; and the pads in the river for half a mile from the village are white with it. From a mile or two distant you see a cloud of dust over the town and extending thence to the muster-field. I went to the store the other day to buy a bolt for our front door, for, as I told the storekeeper, the Governor was coming here. “Aye,” said he, “and the Legislature too.” “Then I will take two bolts,” said I. He said that there had been a steady demand for bolts and locks of late, for our protectors were coming. The surface of the roads for three to six inches in depth is a light and dry powder like ashes.

9.07.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 07-Sep-1851

If the wine, the water, which will nourish me grows on the surface of the moon, I will do the best I can to go to the moon for it.

9.06.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 06-Sep-1841

Some hours seem not to be occasion for anything, unless for great resolves to draw breath and repose in, so religiously do we postpone all action therein. We do not straight go about to execute our thrilling purpose, but shut our doors behind us, and saunter with prepared mind, as if the half were already done.

9.05.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 05-Sep-1851

Moonlight on Fair Haven Pond seen from the Cliffs. A sheeny lake in the midst of a boundless forest, the windy surf sounding freshly and wildly in the single pine behind you; the silence of hushed wolves in the wilderness, and, as you fancy, moose looking off from the shores of the lake. The stars of poetry and history and unexplored nature looking down on the scene. This is my world now, with a dull whitish mark curving northward through the forest marking the outlet to the lake. Fair Haven by moonlight lies there like a lake in the Maine wilderness in the midst of a primitive forest untrodden by man. This light and this hour take the civilization all out of landscape. Even in villages dogs bay the moon; in forests like this we listen to hear wolves howl to Cynthia.

9.04.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 04-Sep-1841

I think I should write a poem to be called “Concord.” For argument I should have the River, the Woods, the Ponds, the Hills, the Fields, the Swamps and Meadows, the Streets and Buildings, and the Villagers. Then Morning, Noon, and Evening, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, Night, Indian Summer, and the Mountains in the Horizon.

9.03.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 03-Sep-1851

As for walking, the inhabitants of large English towns are confined almost exclusively to their parks and to their highways. The few footpaths in their vicinities “are gradually vanishing” says Wilkinson, “under the encroachments of the proprietors.” He proposes that the people’s right to them to be asserted and defended and that they be kept in a passable state at the public expense. “This,” says he, “would be easily done by means of asphalt laid upon a good foundation”!!! So much for walking, in the neighborhood of English large towns.

Think of a man—he may be a genius of some kind—being confined to a highway and a park for his world to range in! I should die from mere nervousness at the thought of such confinement. I should hesitate before I were born, if those terms could be made known to me beforehand. Fenced in forever by those green barriers of fields, where gentlemen are seated! Can they be said to be inhabitants of this globe? Will they be content to inhabit heaven thus partially?

9.02.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 02-Sep-1856

How deceptive these maps of western rivers! Methought they were scattered according to the fancy of the map maker,—were dry channels at best,—but it turns out that the Missouri at Nebraska City is three times as wide as the Mississippi at Burlington, and Grasshopper Creek, perhaps will turn out to be as big as the Thames or Hudson.

There was an old gentlemen here to-day who lived in Concord when he was young and remembers how Dr. Ripley talked to hi8m and other little boys from the pulpit, as they came into church with their hands full of lilies, saying that those lilies looked so fresh that they must have been gathered that morning! Therefore they must have committed the sin of bathing this morning! Why, this is as sacred a river as the Ganges, sir.

I feel this difference between great poetry and small: that in the one, the sense outruns and overflows the words; in the other, the words the sense.

9.01.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 01-Sep-1851

Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.

8.31.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 31-Aug-1839

Made seven miles, and moored our boat on the west side of a little rising ground which in the spring forms and island in the river, the sun going down on one hand, and our eminence contributing its shadow to the night on the other…



From our tent here on the hillside, through that isosceles door, I see our lonely mast on the shore, it may be as an eternity fixture, to be seen in landscapes henceforth, or as the most temporary standstill of time, the boat just come to anchor, and the mast still rocking to find its balance.

No human life is in night,—the woods, the boat, the shore,—yet is it lifelike. The warm pulse of a young life beats steadily underneath all. This slight wind is where one artery approaches the surface and is skin deep.



We begin to have an interest in sun, moon, and stars. What time riseth Orion? Which side the pole gropeth the bear? East, West, North, and South,—where are they? What clock shall tell the hours for us?—Billerica, midnight.

8.30.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 30-Aug-1856

How happens it that we reverence the stones which fall from another planet, and not the stones which belong to this,—another globe, not this,—heaven, and not earth? Are not the stones in Hodge’s wall as good as the aerolite at Mecca? Is not our broad back-door-stone as good as any corner-stone in heaven?

It would imply the regeneration of mankind, if they were to become elevated enough to truly worship stocks and stones. It is the sentiment of fear and slavery and habit which makes a heathenish idolatry. Such idolaters abound in all countries, and heathen cross the seas to reform heathens, dead to bury the dead, and all go down to the pit together. If I could, I would worship the parings of my nails. If he who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is a benefactor, he who discovers two gods where there was only known the one (and such a one!)_ before is a still greater benefactor. I would fain improve every opportunity to wonder and worship, as a sunflower welcomes the light. The more thrilling, wonderful, divine objects I behold in a day, the more expanded and immortal I become. If a stone appeals to me and elevates me, tells me how many miles I have come, how many remain to travel,—and to the more, the better,— reveals the future to me in some measure, it is a matter of private rejoicing. If it did the same service to all, it might well be a matter of public rejoicing.

8.29.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 29-Aug-1858

Almost the very sands confess the ripening influence of the August sun, and me thinks, with the slender grasses waving over them, reflect a purple tinge. The empurpled sands. Such is the consequence of all this sunshine absorbed into the pores of plants and of the earth. All sap or blood is wine-colored. The very bare sands, methinks, yield a purple reflection. At last we have not only the purple sea, but the purple land.

8.28.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 28-Aug-1851

The poet is a man who lives at last by watching his moods. An old poet comes at last to watch his moods as narrowly as a cat does a mouse.

I omit the usual—the hurricanes and earthquakes—and describe the common. This has the greatest charm and is the true theme of poetry. You may have the extraordinary for your province, if you will let me have the ordinary. Give me the obscure life, the cottage of the poor and humble, the workdays of the world, the barren fields, the smallest share of all things but poetic perception. Give me but the eyes to see the things which you possess.

8.27.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 27-Aug-1859

All our life, i.e. the living part of it, is a persistent dreaming awake. The boy does not camp in his father’s yard. That would not be adventurous enough, there are too many sights and sounds to disturb the illusion; so he marches off twenty or thirty miles and there pitches his tent, where stranger inhabitants are tamely sleeping in their beds just like his father at home, and camps in their yard, perchance. But then he dreams uninterruptedly that he is anywhere but where he is.

8.26.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 26-Aug-1856

I rest and take my lunch on Lee’s Cliff, looking toward Baker Farm. What is a New England landscape this sunny August day? A weather-painted house and barn, with an orchard by its side, in midst of a sandy field surrounded by green woods, with a small blue lake on one side. A sympathy between the color of the weather-painted house and that of the lake and sky. I speak not of a country road between its fences, for this house lies off one, nor do I commonly approach them from this side. The weather-painted house. This is the New England color, homely but fit as that of a toadstool. What matter though this one has not been inhabited for thirty years? Methinks I hear the crow of a cock come up from its barn-yard.

8.25.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 25-Aug-1856

I cross the meadows in the face of a thunder-storm rising very dark in the north. There were several boats out, but their crews soon retreated homeward before the approaching storm. It came on rapidly, with vivid lightning striking the northern earth and heavy thunder following. Just before, and in the shadow of, the cloud, I saw advancing majestically with wide circles over the meadowy flood a fish hawk, and, apparently, a black eagle (maybe a young white-head). The first, with slender curved wings and silvery breast, four or five hundred feet high, watching the water while he circled slowly southwesterly. What a vision that could detect a fish at that distance! The latter, with broad black wings and broad tail, thus hovered only about one hundred feet high; evidently a different species, and what else but an eagle? They soon disappeared southwest, cutting off a bend. The thunder-shower passed off to the southeast.

8.24.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 24-Aug-1852

Like cuttlefish we conceal ourselves, we darken the atmosphere in which we move; we are not transparent. I pine for one to whom I can speak my first thoughts; thoughts which represent me truly, which are no better and no worse than I; thoughts which have the bloom on them, which alone can be sacred and divine. Our sin and shame prevent our expressing even the innocent thoughts we have. I know of no one to whom I can be transparent instinctively. I live the life of the cuttlefish; another appears, and the element in which I move is tinged and I am concealed. My first thoughts are azure; there is a bloom and a dew on them; they are papillaceous feelers which I put out, tender, innocent. Only to a friend can I expose them. To all parties, though they be youth and maiden, if they are transparent to each other, and their thoughts can be expressed, there can be no further nakedness. I cannot be surprised by an intimacy which reveals the outside, when it has shown me the inside. The result of a full communication of out thoughts would be the immediate neglect of those coverings which a false modesty wears.

8.23.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 23-Aug-1853

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines. In August live on berries, not dried meats and pemmican, as if you were on shipboard making your way through a waste ocean, or in a northern desert. Be blown on by all the winds. Open all your pores and bathe in all the tides of Nature, in all her streams and oceans, at all seasons. Miasma and infection are from within, not without. The invalid, brought to the brink of the grave by an unnatural life, instead of imbibing only the great influence that Nature is, drinks only the tea made of a particular herb, while he still continues his unnatural life,—saves at the spile and wastes at the bung. He does not love Nature or his life, and so sickens and dies, and no doctor can cure him. Grow green with spring, yellow and ripe with autumn. Drink of each seasons influence as a vial, a true panacea of all remedies mixed for your especial use. The vials of summer never made a man sick, but those which he stored in his cellar. Drink the wines, not of your bottling, but of Nature’s bottling; not kept in goat-skins or pig-skins, but the skins of a myriad fair berries. Let nature do your bottling and your pickling and preserving. For all Nature is doing her best each moment to make us well. She exists for no other end. Do not resist her. With the least inclination to be well, we should not be sick. Men have discovered—or think they have discovered—the salutariness of a few wild things only, and not of all nature. Why, “nature” is but another name for health, and the seasons are but different states of health. Some men think that they are not well in spring, or summer, or autumn, or winter; it is only because they are not well in them.

8.22.2006

Thoreau's Journal: 22-Aug-1858

I have spliced my old sail to a new one, and now go out and try it in a sail to Baker Farm. It is a “square sail” some five feet by six. I like it much. It pulls like an ox, and makes me think there’s more wind abroad than there is. The yard goes about with a pleasant force, almost enough, I would fain imagine, to knock me overboard. How sturdily it pulls, shooting us along, catching more wind than I knew to be wandering in this river valley. It suggests a new power in the sail, like a Grecian god. I can even worship it, after a heathen fashion. And then, how it becomes my boat and the river,—a simple homely square sail, all for use not show, so low and broad! Ajacean. The boat is like a plow drawn by a winged bull.