Thoreau's Journal: 31-Mar-1852

Methinks I would share every creature’s suffering for the sake of its experience and joy. The song sparrow and the transient fox-colored sparrow,—have they brought me no message this year? Do they go to lead heroic lives in Rupert’s Land? They are so small, I think their destinies must be large. Have I heard what this tiny passenger has to say, while it flits thus from tree to tree? Is not the coming of the fox-colored sparrow something more earnest and significant than I have dreamed of? Can I forgive myself if I let it go to Rupert’s Land before I have appreciated it? God did not make this world in jest; no, nor in indifference. These migrating sparrows all bear messages that concern my life. I do not pluck the fruits in their season. I love the birds and beasts because they are mythologically in earnest. I see that the sparrow cheeps and flits and sings adequately to the great design of the universe; that man does not communicate with it, understand its language, because he is not one with nature. I reproach myself because I have regarded with indifference the passage of the birds; I have thought them no better than I.


Thoreau's Journal: 30-Mar-1852

Having occasion to-day to put up a long ladder against the house, I found, from the trembling of my nerves with the exertion, that I had not exercised that part of my system this winter. How much I may have lost! It would do me good to go forth and work hard and sweat. Though the frost is nearly out of the ground, the winter has not broken up in me. Perhaps we grow older and older till we no longer sympathize with the revolution of the seasons, and our winters never break up.

To-day, as frequently for some time past, we have a raw east wind, which is rare in winter. I see as yet very little, perhaps no, new growth in the plants in open fields, but only the green radical leaves which have been kept fresh under the snow; but if I should explore carefully about their roots, I should find some expanding buds and even new-rising shoots. The farmers are making haste to clear up their wood-lots, which they have cut off the past winter, to get off the tops and brush, that they may not be too late and injure the young sprouts and lose a year’s growth in the operation, also that they may be ready for their spring work.

From the Cliffs I see that Fair Haven Pond is open over the channel of the river,—which is in fact thus only revealed, of the same width as elsewhere, running from the end of Baker’s Wood to the point of the Island. The slight current there has worn away the ice. I never knew before exactly where the channel was. It is pretty central. I perceive the hollow sound from the rocky ground as I tread and stamp about the Cliffs, and am reminded how much more sure children are to notice this peculiarity than grown persons. I remember when I used to make this a regular part of the entertainment when I conducted a stranger to the Cliffs.


Thoreau's Journal: 29-Mar-1855

As I stand on Heywood’s Peak, looking over Walden, more than half its surface already sparkling blue water, I inhale with pleasure the cold but wholesome air like a draught of cold water, contrasting it in my memory with the wind of summer, which I do not thus eagerly swallow. This, which is a chilling wind to my fellow, is decidedly refreshing to me, and I swallow it with eagerness as a panacea. I feel an impulse, also, already, to jump into the half-melted pond. This cold wind is refreshing to my palate, as the warm air of summer is not, methinks. I love to stand there and be blown on as much as a horse in July.

Thoreau's Journal: 28-Mar-1853

My Aunt Maria asked me to read the life of Dr. Chalmers, which however I did not promise to do. Yesterday, Sunday, she was heard through the partition shouting to my Aunt Jane, who is deaf, “Think of it! He stood half an hour to-day to hear the frogs croak, and he wouldn’t read the life of Chalmers."

6A.M—To Cliffs

Too cold for the birds to sing much. There appears to be more snow on the mountains. Many of our spring rains are snow-storms there. The woods ring with the cheerful jingle of the F. hyemalis. This is a very trig and compact little bird, and appears to be in good condition. The straight edge of slate on their breasts contrasts remarkably with the white from beneath; the short light-colored bill is also very conspicuous amid the dark slate; and when they fly from you, the two white feathers in their tails are very distinct at a good distance. They are very lively, pursuing each other from bush to bush. Could that be the fox-colored sparrow I saw this morning,—that reddish-brown sparrow?

I do not now think of a bird that hops so distinctly, rapidly, and commonly as the robin, with its head up.

Why is the pollen of flowers commonly yellow?


Thoreau's Journal: 26-Mar-1860

The walker and naturalist does not wear a hat, or a shoe, or a coat, to be looked at, but for other uses. When a citizen comes to take a walk with me I commonly find that he is lame,—disabled by his shoeing. He is sure to wet his feet, tear his coat, and jam his hat, and the superior qualities of my boots, coat, and hat appear. I once went into the woods with a party for a fortnight. I wore my old and common clothes, which were of Vermont gray. They wore, no doubt, the best they had for such an occasion,—of a fashionable color and quality. I thought that they were a little ashamed of me while we were in the towns. They all tore their clothes badly but myself, and I, who, it chanced, was the only one provided with needles and thread, enabled them to mend them. When we came out of the woods I was the best dressed of any of them.


Thoreau's Journal: 10-Mar-1859

When I meet gentlemen and ladies, I am reminded of the extent of the inhabitable and uninhabitable globe; I exclaim to myself, Surfaces! surfaces! If the outside of a man is so variegated and extensive, what must the inside be? You are high up the Platte River, traversing deserts, plains covered with soda, with no deeper hollow than a prairie-dog hole tenanted also by owls and venomous snakes.


Thoreau's Journal: 9-Mar-1852

The railroad men have now their hands full. I hear and see bluebirds, come with the warm wind. The sand is flowing in the Deep Cut. I am affected by the sight of the moist red sand or subsoil under the edge of the sandy bank, under the pitch pines. The railroad is perhaps our pleasantest and wildest road. It only makes deep cuts into and through the hills. On it are no houses or foot-travellers. The travel on it does not disturb me. The woods are left to hang over it. Though straight, is wild in its accompaniments. All is raw edges. Even the laborers on it are not like other laborers. Its houses, if any, are shanties, and its ruins the ruins of shanties, shells where the race that built the railroad dwelt, and the bones they gnawed lie about. I am cheered by the sound of running water now down the wooden troughs on each side the cut. Then it is the driest walking in wet weather, and the easiest in snowy. This road breaks the surface of the earth. Even the sight of smoke from the shanty excites me to-day. Already these puddles on the railroad, reflecting the pine woods, remind me of summer lakes.


Thoreau's Journal: 8-Mar-1853

I know of no more pleasing employment than to ride about the country with a companion very early in the spring, looking at farms with a view to purchasing if not paying for them.


Thoreau's Journal: 7-Mar-1852

Going through the high field beyond the lone graveyard, I see the track of a boy’s sled before me, and his footsteps shining like silver between me and the moon. And now I come to where they have coasted in a hollow in this upland bean-field, and there are countless tracks of sleds, and I forget that the sun shone on them in their sport, as if I had reached the region of perpetual twilight, and their sport appears more significant and symbolical now, more earnest. For what a man does abroad by night requires and implies more deliberate energy than what he is encouraged to do in the sunshine. He is more spiritual, less animal or vegetable, in the former case.


Thoreau's Journal: 6-Mar-1841

An honest misunderstanding is often the ground of future intercourse.


Thoreau's Journal: 5-Mar-1858

We read the English poets; we study botany and zoology and geology, lean and dry as they are; and it is rare that we get a new suggestion. It is ebb-tide with the scientific reports, Professor ______ in the chair. We would fain know something more about these animals and stones and trees around us. We are ready to skin the animals alive to come at them. Our scientific names convey a very partial information only; they suggest certain thoughts only. It does not occur to me that there are other names for most of these objects, given by a people who stood between me and them, who had better senses than our race. How little I know of that arbor-vitae when I have learned only what science can tell me! It is but a word. It is not a tree of life. But there are twenty words for the tree and its different parts which the Indian gave, which are not in our botanies, which imply a more practical and vital science. He used it every day. He was well acquainted with its wood, and its bark, and its leaves. No science does more than arrange what knowledge we have of any class of objects. But, generally speaking, how much more conversant was the Indian with any wild animal or plant than we are, and in his language is implied all that intimacy, as much as ours is expressed in our language. How many words in his language about a moose, or birch bark, and the like!


Thoreau's Journal: 4-Mar-1859

We stood still a few moments on the Turnpike below Wright’s (the Turnpike, which had no wheel-track beyond Tuttle’s and no track at all beyond Wright’s), and listened to hear a spring bird. We heard only the jay screaming in the distance and the cawing of a crow. What a perfectly New England sound is this voice of the crow! If you stand perfectly still anywhere in the outskirts of the town and listen, stilling the almost incessant hum of your own personal factory, this is perhaps the sound which you will be most sure to hear rising above all sounds of human industry and leading your thoughts to some far bay in the woods where the crow is venting his disgust. The bird sees the white man come and the Indian withdraw, but it withdraws not. Its untamed voice is still heard above the tinkling of the forge. It sees a race pass away, but it passes not away. It remains to remind us of aboriginal nature.


Thoreau's Journal: 3-Mar-1841

I thank God for sound; it always mounts, and makes me mount. I think I will not trouble myself for any wealth, when I can be so cheaply enriched. Here I contemplate to drudge that I may own a farm—and may have such a limitless estate for the listening. All good things are cheap; all bad are very dear.


Thoreau's Journal: 2-Mar-1859

As I go through Cassandra Ponds, I look round on the young oak woods still clad with rustling leaves as in winter, with a feeling as if it were their last rustle before the spring, but then I reflect how faraway still is the time when the new buds swelling will cause these leaves to fall. We thus commonly antedate the spring more than any other season, for we look forward to it with more longing. We talk about spring as at hand before the end of February, and yet it will be two good months, one sixth part of the whole year, before we can go a-maying. There may be a month of solid and uninterrupted winter yet, plenty of ice and good sleighing. We may not even see the bare ground,and hardly the water, and yet we sit down and warm our spirits annually with distant prospect of spring. As if a man were to warm his hands by stretching them toward the rising sun and rubbing them.


Thoreau's Journal: 1-Mar-1838

March fans it, April christens it, and May puts on its jacket and trousers. It never grows up, but Alexandrian-like “drags its slow length along,” ever springing, bud following close upon leaf, and when winter comes it is not annihilated, but creeps on mole-like under the snow, showing its face nevertheless occasionally by fuming springs and watercourses.

So let it be with man,—let his manhood be a more advanced and still advancing youth, bud following hard upon leaf. By the side of the ripening corn let’s have a second or third crop of peas and turnips, decking the fields in a new green. So amid clumps of sere herd’s grass sometimes flower the violet and buttercup spring-born.