eat his own heart
...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?


life and a dream
...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?


the motto
...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.


a light line
...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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.