5.31.2014

BONUS: I once set fire to the woods
...Thoreau's Journal: 31-May-1850

I once set fire to the woods. Having set out, one April day, to go to the sources of Concord River in a boat with a single companion, meaning to camp on the bank at night or seek a lodging in some neighboring country inn or farmhouse, we took fishing tackle with us that we might fitly procure our food from the stream, Indian-like. At the shoemaker's near the river, we obtained a match, which we had forgotten. Though it was thus early in the spring, the river was low, for there had not been much rain, and we succeeded in catching a mess of fish sufficient for our dinner before we had left the town, and by the shores of Fair Haven Pond we proceeded to cook them. The earth was uncommonly dry, and our fire, kindled far from the woods in a sunny recess in the hillside on the east of the pond, suddenly caught the dry grass of the previous year which grew about the stump on which it was kindled. We sprang to extinguish it at first with our hands and feet, and then we fought it with a board obtained from the boat, but in a few minutes it was beyond our reach; being on the side of a hill, it spread rapidly upward through the long, dry, wiry grass interspersed with bushes.

"Well, where will this end?" asked my companion. I saw that it might In- bounded by Well Meadow Brook on one side, but would, perchance, go to the village side of the brook. "It will go to town," I answered. While my companion took the boat back down the river, I set out through the woods to inform the owners and to raise the town. The fire had already spread a dozen rods on every side, and went leaping and crackling wildly and irreclaimably toward the wood. That way went the flames with wild delight, and we felt that we had no control over the demonic creature to which we had given birth. We had kindled many fires in the woods before, burning a clear space in the grass, without ever kindling such a fire as this.

As I ran toward the town through the woods, I could see the smoke over the woods behind me marking the spot and the progress of the flames. The first farmer whom I met driving a team, after leaving the woods, inquired the cause of the smoke. I told him. "Well," said he, "it is none of my stuff," and drove along. The next I met was the owner in his field, with whom I returned at once to the woods, running all the way. I had already run two miles. When at length we got into the neighborhood of the flames, we met a carpenter who had been hewing timber, an infirm man who had been driven off by the fire, fleeing with his axe. The farmer returned to hasten more assistance. I, who was spent with running, remained. What could I do alone against a front of flame half a mile wide?

I walked slowly through the wood to Fair Haven Cliff, climbed to the highest rock, and sat down upon it to observe the progress of the flames, which were rapidly approaching me, now about a mile distant from the spot where the fire was kindled. Presently I heard the sound of the distant bell giving the alarm, and I knew that the town was on its way to the scene. Hitherto I had felt like a guilty person — nothing but shame and regret. But now I settled the matter with myself shortly. I said to myself, "Who are these men who are said to be the owners of these woods, and how am I related to them ? I have set fire to the forest, but I have done no wrong therein, and now it is as if the lightning had done it. These flames are but consuming their natural food." It has never troubled mefromthat day to this more than if the lightning had done it. The trivial fishing was all that disturbed me and disturbs me still. So shortly I settled it with myself and stood to watch the approaching flames. It was a glorious spectacle and I was the only one there to enjoy it. The fire now reached the base of the cliff, and then rushed up its sides. The squirrels ran before it in blind haste, and three pigeons dashed into the midst of the smoke. The flames flashed up the pines to their tops, as if they were powder.

When I found I was about to be surrounded by the fire, I retreated and joined the forces now arriving from the town. It took us several hours to surround the flames with our hoes and shovels and by back fires subdue them. In the midst of all I saw the farmer whom I first met, who had turned indifferently away saying it was none of his stuff, striving earnestly to save his corded wood, his stuff, which the fire had already seized and which it after all consumed.

It burned over a hundred acres or more and destroyed much young wood. When I returned home late in the day, with others of my townsmen, I could not help noticing that the crowd who were so ready to condemn the individual who had kindled the fire did not sympathize with the owners of the wood, but were in fact highly elate and as it were thankful for the opportunity which had afforded them so much sport, and it was only half a dozen owners so called, though not all of them, who looked sour or grieved, and I felt that I had a deeper interest in the woods, knew them better, and should feel their loss more, than any or all of them. The farmer whom I had first conducted to the woods was obliged to ask me the shortest way back, through his own lot. Why, then, should the half dozen owners [and] the individuals who set the fire alone feel sorrow for the loss of the wood, while the rest of the town have their spirits raised? Some of the owners, however, bore their loss like men, but other some declared behind my back that I was a "damned rascal;" and a flibbertigibbet or two, who crowed like the old cock, shouted some reminiscences of "burnt woods" from safe recesses for some years after. I have had nothing to say to any of them. The locomotive engine has since burned over nearly all the same ground and more, and in some measure blotted out the memory of the previous fire. For a long time after I bad learned this lesson I marvelled that while matches and tinder were contemporaries the world was not consumed, why the houses that have hearths were not burned before another day, if the flames were not as hungry now as when I waked them. I at once ceased to regard the owners and my own fault, — if fault there was any in the matter, — and attended to the phenomenon before me, determined to make the most of it. To be sure, I felt a little ashamed when I reflected on what a trivial occasion this had happened, that at the time I was no better employed than my townsmen.

That night I watched the fire, where some stumps still flamed at midnight in the midst of the blackened waste, wandering through the woods by myself; and far in the night I threaded my way to the spot where the fire had taken, and discovered the now broiled fish, — which had been dressed, — scattered over the burnt grass.

sea-turn
...Thoreau's Journal: 31-May-1858

There was a slight sea-turn, the wind coming cool and easterly this morning, which at first I mistook for the newly leafing deciduous trees investing the evergreens, which is a kind of sea-turn in harmony with the other. I remember that the stage-drivers riding back and forth daily from Concord to Boston and becoming weather-wise perforce, often meeting the sea-breeze on its way to the country, were wont to show their weather wisdom by telling anxious travelers that it was nothing but a sea-turn.

5.30.2014

the poem of the world
...Thoreau's Journal: 30-May-1853

The morning wind forever blows; the poem of the world is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it. Forever that strain of the harp which soothed the Cerberus and called me back to life is sounding. Olympus is the outside of the earth everywhere.

5.29.2014

goad us into some action
...Thoreau's Journal: 29-May-1857

With all this opportunity, this comedy and tragedy, how near all men come to doing nothing! It is strange that they did not make us more intense and emphatic, that they do not goad us into some action. Generally, with all our desires and restlessness, we are no more likely to embark in any enterprise than a tree is to walk to a more favorable locality.

5.28.2014

of sparrows, tree and song
...Thoreau's Journal: 28-May-1854

The F. hyemalis, fox-colored sparrow, rusty grackles, tree sparrows, have all gone by; also the purple finch. The snipe has ceased to boom. I have not heard the phoebe of late, and methinks the bluebird and the robin are not heard so often (the former certainly not). Those tumultuous morning concerts of sparrows, tree and song, hyemalis, and grackles, like leaves on the trees are past, and the woodland quire will rather be diminished than increased henceforth.

5.27.2014

an organ-grinder
...Thoreau's Journal: 27-May-1851

I saw an organ-grinder this morning before a rich man’s house, thrilling the street with harmony, loosening the very paving stones and tearing the routine of life to rags and tatters, when the lady of the house shoved up a window and in a semiphilanthropic tone inquired if he wanted anything to eat. But he, very properly it seemed to me, kept on grinding and paid no attention to her question, feeding her ears with melody unasked for. So the world shoves up its window and interrogates the poet, and sets him to gauging ale casks in return. It seemed to me that the music suggested that the recompense should be as fine as the gift. It would be much nobler to enjoy the music, though you paid no money for it, than to presume always a beggarly relation. It is after all, perhaps, the best instrumental music that we have.

5.26.2014

the Virginia Road
...Thoreau's Journal: 26-May-1857

My mother was telling to-night of the sounds she used to hear summer nights when she was young and lived on the Virginia Road,—the lowing of cows, or cackling of geese, or the beating of a drum as far off as Hildreth’s, but above all Joe Merriam whistling to his team, for he was an admirable whistler. Says she used to get up at midnight and go and sit on the door-step when all in the house were asleep, and she could hear nothing in the world but the ticking of the clock in the house behind her.

5.25.2014

terrestrial with celestial
...Thoreau's Journal: 25-May-1851

A fine, freshening air, a little hazy, that bathes and washes everything, saving the day from extreme heat. Walked to the hills south of Wayland by the road by Deacon Farrar’s. First vista just beyond Merron’s, looking west down a valley, with a verdant-columned elm at the extremity of the vale and the blue hills and the horizon beyond. These are the resting-places in a walk. We love to see any part of the earth tinged with blue, cerulean, the color of the sky, the celestial color. I wonder that houses are not oftener located mainly that they may command particular rare prospects, every convenience yielding to this. The farmer would never suspect what it was you were buying, and such sites would be the cheapest of any. A site where you might avail yourself of the art of Nature for three thousand years, which could never be materially changed or taken from you, a noble inheritance for your children. The true sites for human dwellings are unimproved. They command no price in the market. Men will pay something to look into a traveling showman’s box, but not to look upon the fairest prospects on the earth. A vista where you have the near green horizon contrasted with the blue one, terrestrial with celestial earth. The prospect of a vast horizon must be accessible in our neighborhood. Where men of enlarged views may be educated. An unchangeable kind of wealth, a real estate.

5.24.2014

imagine myself somebody else
...Thoreau's Journal: 24-May-1853

Talked, or tried to talk, with R.W.E. Lost my time—nay, almost my identity. He, assuming a false opposition where there was no difference of opinion, talked to the wind—told me what I knew—and I lost my time trying to imagine myself somebody else to oppose him.

5.23.2014

through with Nature
...Thoreau's Journal: 23-May-1854

We soon get through with Nature. She excites an expectation which she cannot satisfy. The merest child which has rambled into a copsewood dreams of a wilderness so wild and strange and inexhaustible as nature can never show him. The red-bird which I saw on my companion’s string on election days I thought but the outmost sentinel of the wild, immortal camp,—of the wild and dazzling infantry of the wilderness,—that the deeper woods abounded with redder birds still; but, now that I have threaded all our woods and waded the swamps, I have never yet met with his compeer, still less his wilder kindred. The red-bird which is the last of nature is but the first of God.

5.22.2014

a little dot of a kitten
...Thoreau's Journal: 22-May-1853

When yesterday Sophia and I were rowing past Mr. Prichard’s land, where the river is bordered by a row of elms and low willows, at 6 P.M., we heard a singular note of distress as if it were from a catbird—a loud, vibrating, catbird sort of note, as if the catbird’s mew were imitated by a smart vibrating spring. Blackbirds and others were flitting about, apparently attracted by it. At first, thinking it was merely some peevish catbird or red-wing, I was disregarding it, but on second thought turned the bows to the shore, looking into the trees as well as over the shore, thinking some bird might be in distress, caught by a snake or in a forked twig. The hovering birds dispersed at my approach; the note of distress sounded louder and nearer as I approached the shore covered with low osiers. The sound came from the ground, not from the trees. I saw a little black animal making haste to meet the boat under the osiers. A young muskrat? a mink? No, it was a little dot of a kitten. It was scarcely six inches long from the face to the base—or I might as well say the tip—of the tail, for the latter was a short, sharp pyramid, perfectly perpendicular but not swelled in the least. It was a very handsome and precocious kitten, in perfectly good condition, its breadth being considerably more than one third of its length. Leaving its mewing, it came scrambling over the stones as fast as its weak legs would permit straight to me. I took it up and dropped it into the boat, but while I was pushing off it ran to Sophia, who held it while we rowed homeward. Evidently it had not been weaned—was smaller than we remembered that kittens ever were—almost infinitely small; yet it had hailed a boat, its life being in danger, and saved itself. Its performance, considering its age and amount of experience, was more wonderful than that of any young mathematician or musician that I have read of.

5.21.2014

a parrot exceedingly frightened
...Thoreau's Journal: 21-May-1857

I saw yesterday a parrot exceedingly frightened in its cage at a window. It rushed to the bars and struggled to get out. A piece of board had been thrown from the window above to the ground, which probably the parrot’s instinct had mistaken for a hawk. Their eyes are very open to danger from above.

5.20.2014

the playing of the foxes
...Thoreau's Journal: 20-May-1858

Going along the deep valley in the woods, just before entering the part called Laurel Glen, I heard a noise and saw a fox running off along the shrubby side-hill. It looked like a rather small dirty-brown fox and very clumsy, running much like a woodchuck. It had a dirty or dark brown tail with very little white to the tip. A few steps further I came upon the remains of a wood chuck,, yet warm which it had been eating. Head, legs, and tail, all remained, united by the skin, but the bowels and a good part of the flesh were eaten. This was evidently a young fox, say three quarters grown, or perhaps less, and appeared as full as a tick. There was a fox-hole within three rods, with a very large sand heap, several cartloads, before it, much trodden. Hearing a bird of which I was in search I turned to examine it, when I heard a bark behind me, and, looking round, saw an old fox on the brow of the hill on the west side of the valley, amid the bushes, about ten rods, off looking down at me. At first it was a short, puppy-like bark, but afterward it began to bark on a higher key and more prolonged, very unlike a dog, a very ragged half-screaming bur-ar-r-r. I proceeded along the valley half a dozen rods after a little delay (the fox being gone) and then looked round to see if it returned to the woodchuck. I then saw a full-grown fox, perhaps the same as the last, cross the valley through the thin low wood fifteen or twenty rods behind me, but from east to west, pausing and looking at me anxiously from time to time. It was rather light tawny (not fox colored) with dusky- brown bars, and looked very large wolf-like. The full-grown fox stood much higher on its legs and was longer, but the body was apparently not much heavier than that of the young. Going a little further, I came to another hole, and ten feet off was a space of a dozen square feet amid some little oaks, worn quite bare and smooth, apparently by the playing of the foxes, and the ground close around a large stump about a rod from the hole was worn bare and hard, and all the bark and much of the rotten wood was pawed or gnawed off lately. They had pawed a deep channel about one and in between the roots, perhaps for insects. There lay the remains of another woodchuck, now dry, the head, skin, and legs being left, and also part of the skin of a third, and the bones of another animal, and some partridge feathers. The old foxes had kept their larder well supplied. Within a rod was another hole, apparently a back door, having no heap of sand, and five or six rods off, another in the side of the hill with a small sand-heap, and as far down the valley, another with a large sand-heap and a back door with none. There was a well-beaten path from the one on the side-hill five or six rods long to one in the valley, and there was much blackish dung about the holes and stump and the path. By the hole furthest down the valley was another stump which had been gnawed (?) very much and trampled and pawed about like the other. I suppose the young foxes play there. There were half a dozen holes or more, and what with the skulls and feathers and skins and bones about, I was reminded of Golgotha. These holes were some of them very large and conspicuous, a foot wide vertically, by eight or ten inches, going into the side-hill with a curving stoop, and there was commonly a very large heap of sand before them, trodden smooth. It was a sprout-land valley, cut off but a year or two since.

As I stood by the last hole, I heard the old fox bark, and saw her (?) near the brow of the hill on the north-west, amid the bushes, restless and anxious, overlooking me a dozen or fourteen rods off. I was no doubt by the hole in which the young were. She uttered at very short intervals a prolonged, shrill, screeching kind of bark, beginning lower and rising to a very high key, lasting two seconds; a very broken and ragged sound, more like the scream of a large and angry bird than the bark of a dog, trilled like a piece of vibrating metal at the end. It moved restlessly back and forth, or approached nearer, and stood or sat on its haunches like a dog with its tail laid out in a curve on one side, and when it barked it laid its ears flat back and stretched its nose forward. Sometimes it uttered a short, puppy-like, snappish bark. It was not fox-colored now, but a very light tawny or wolf-color, dark brown or dusky beneath in a broad line from its throat; its legs the same, perpendicular band on its haunches and similar ones on its tail, and a small whitish spot on each side of its mouth. There it sat like a chieftain on his hills, looking, methought, as big as a prairie wolf, and shaggy like it, anxious and ever fierce, as I peered through my glass. I noticed, when it withdrew, —I too withdrawing in the opposite direction,— that as it had descended the hill a little way and wanted to go off over the pinnacle without my seeing which way it went, it ran one side about ten feet, till it was behind a small white pine, then turned at a right angle and ascended the hill directly, with the pine between us. The sight of him suggested that two or three might attack a man. The note was a shrill, vibrating scream or cry; could easily be heard a quarter of a mile. How many woodchucks, rabbits, partridges, etc., etc., they must kill, and yet how few of them are seen.

5.19.2014

evening
...Thoreau's Journal: 19-May-1859

It is a warm, muggy, rainy evening, when the night-hawks commonly spark and the whip-poor-will is heard.

5.18.2014

landscape is most beautiful
...Thoreau's Journal: 18-May-1852

It is a fine clear atmosphere, only the mountains blue. A slight seething but no haze. Shall we have much of this weather after this? There is scarcely a flock of cloud in the sky. The heaven is now broad and open to the earth in these longest days. The world can never be more beautiful than now, for, combined with the tender fresh green, you have this remarkable clearness of the air. I doubt if the landscape will be any greener.

The landscape is most beautiful looking towards the sun (in the orchard on Fair Haven) at four. First, there is this green slope on which I sit, looking down between the rows of apple trees jut being clothed with tender green,—sometimes underneath them to the sparkling water, or over through them, or seeing them against the sky. Secondly, the outline of this bank or hill is drawn against the water far below; the river still high, a beautifully bright sheen on the water there, though it is elsewhere a dull slaty-blue color, a sober rippled surface. A fine sparkling shimmer in front, owing to the remarkable clearness of the atmosphere (clarified by the May storm?). Thirdly, on either side of the wood beyond the river are patches of bright, tender, yellowish, velvety green grass in meadows and on hillsides. It is like a short furred mantle now and bright as if it had the sun on it. Those great fields of green affect me as did those early green blades by the Corner Spring,—like a fire flaming up from the earth. The earth proves itself well alive even in the skin. No scurf on it, only a browner color on the barren tops of hills. Fourthly, the forest, the dark-green pines, wonderfully distinct, near and erect, with their distinct dark stems, spring tops, regularly disposed branches, and silvery light on their needles. They seem to wear an aspect as much fresher and livelier as the other trees,— though their growth can hardly be perceptible yet,—as if they had been washed by the rains and the air. They are now being invested with the light, sunny, yellowish-green of the deciduous trees. This tender foliage, putting so much light and life into the landscape, is the remarkable feature at this date. The week when the deciduous trees are generally and conspicuously expanding their leaves. The various tints of gray oaks and yellowish-green birches and aspens and hickories, and the red or scarlet tops where maple keys are formed (the blossoms are now over),—these last the high color (rosaceous?) in the bouquet. And fifthly, I detect a great stretch of high-backed, mostly bare, grassy pasture country between this and the Nashua, spotted with pines and forests, which I had formerly taken for forest uninterrupted. And finally, sixthly, Wachusett rising in the background, slightly veiled in bluish mist,—toward which all these seem to slope gradually upward,—and those grassy hillsides in the foreground, seen but as patches of bare grassy ground on a spur of that distant mountain.

5.17.2014

rain is good for thought
...Thoreau's Journal: 17-May-1858

It rains gently from time to time as I walk, but I see a farmer with his boys, John Hosmer, still working in the rain, bent on finishing his planting. He is slowly getting a soaking, quietly dropping manure in the furrows. The rain is good for thought. It is especially agreeable to me as I enter the wood and hear the soothing dripping on the leaves. It domiciliates me in nature. The woods are the more like a house for the rain; the few slight noises sound more hollow in them; the birds hop nearer; the very trees seem still and pensive. The clouds are but a higher roof. The clouds and rain confine me to near objects, the surface of the earth and the trees.

5.16.2014

hummingbird
...Thoreau's Journal: 16-May-1858

A hummingbird yesterday came into the next house and was caught. Flew about our parlor to-day and tasted Sophia’s flowers. In some lights you saw none of the colors of its throat. In others, in the shade the throat was clear bright scarlet, but in the sun it glowed with splendid metallic, fiery reflections about the neck and throat. It uttered from time to time, as it flew, a faint squeaking chirp or chirrup. The hum sounded more hollow when it approached a flower. Its wings fanned the air so forcibly that you felt the cool wind they raised a foot off, and nearer it was very remarkable. Does not this very motion of the wings keep a bird cool in hot weather?

5.15.2014

first cricket
...Thoreau's Journal: 15-May-1852

The first cricket’s chirrup which I have chanced to hear now falls on my ear and makes me forget all else; all else is a thin and moveable crust down to that depth where he resides eternally. He already foretells autumn. Deep under the dry border of some rock in this hillside he sits, and makes the finest singing of birds outward and insignificant, his own song is so much deeper and more significant. His voice has set me thinking, philosophizing, moralizing at once. It is not so wildly melodious, but it is wiser and more mature than that of the wood thrush. With this elixir I see clear through the summer now to autumn, and any summer works seems frivolous. I am disposed to ask this humblebee that hurries humming past so busily if he knows what he is about. At one leap I go from the just opened buttercup to the life-everlasting. This singer has antedated autumn. His strain is superior (inferior?) to seasons. It annihilates time and space; the summer is for time-servers.

5.14.2014

roots
...Thoreau's Journal: 14-May-1852

Most men are easily transplanted from here there, for they have so little root—no tap root,—or their roots penetrate so little way, that you can thrust a shovel quite under them and take them up, roots and all.

5.13.2014

manners of the bear
...Thoreau's Journal: 13-May-1852

Where are the men who dwell in thought? Talk,—that is palaver! at which men hurrah and clap! The manners of the bear are so far good that he does not pay you any compliments.

5.12.2014

world-ridden
...Thoreau's Journal: 12-May-1857

How rarely I meet with a man who can be free, even in thought! We live according to rule. Some men are bedridden; all world-ridden. I take my neighbor, an intellectual man, out into the woods and invite him to take a new and absolute view of things, to empty clean out his thoughts all institutions of men and start again; but he can’t do it, he sticks to his traditions and his crotchets. He thinks that governments, colleges, newspapers, etc., are from everlasting to everlasting.

The Salix cordata, var. Torreyana is distinguished by its naked ovaries more or less red-brown, with flesh-colored stigmas, with a distinct slender wholly rachis and conspicuous stalks, giving the ament a loose and open appearance.

When I consider how many species of willow have been planted along the railroad causeway within ten years, of which no one knows the history, and not one in Concord beside myself can tell the name of one, so that it is quite a discovery to identify a single one in a year, and yet within this period the seeds of all these kinds have been conveyed from some other locality to this, I am reminded how much is going on that man wots not of.

5.11.2014

distant thunder
...Thoreau's Journal: 11-May-1854

While at the Falls, I feel the air cooled and hear the mutterings of distant thunder in the northwest and see a dark cloud in that direction indistinctly through the wood. That distant thunder-shower very much cools our atmosphere. And I make haste through the woods homeward via Hubbard’s Close. Hear the evergreen-forest note. The true poet will ever live aloof from society, wild to it, as the finest singer is the wood thrush, a forest bird. The shower is apparently going by on the north. There is a low, dark, blue-black arch, crescent-like, in the horizon, sweeping the distant earth there with a dusky, rainy brush, and all men, like the earth, seem to wear an aspect of expectation. There is an uncommon stillness here, disturbed only by a rush of the wind from time to time. In the village I meet men making haste to their homes, for, though the heavy cloud has gone quite by, the shower will probably strike us with its tail. Rock maple keys, etc., now two inches long, probably been out some days. Those by the path on Common not out at all. Now I have got home there is at last a still cooler wind with a rush, and at last a smart shower, slanting to the ground, without thunder.

My errand this afternoon was chiefly to look at the gooseberry at Saw Mill Brook.

5.10.2014

the May-gate
...Thoreau's Journal: 10-May-1853

I proceed down the Turnpike. The masses of the golden willow are seen in the distance on either side of the way, twice as high as the road is wide, conspicuous against the distant, still half-russet hills and forests, for the green grass hardly yet prevails over the dead stubble, and the woods are but just beginning to gray. The female willow is a shade greener. At this season the traveler passes through a golden gate on causeways where these willows are planted, as if he were approaching the entrance to Fairyland; and there will surely be found the yellowbird, and already from a distance is heard his note, a tche tche tche tcha tchar tcha,—ah, willow, willow. Could not he truly arrange for us the difficult family of the willows better than Borrer, or Barrat of Middletown? And as he passes between the portals, a sweet fragrance is wafted to him; he not only breathes but scents and tastes the air, and he hears the low humming or susurrus of a myriad insects which are feeding on its sweets. It is, apparently, these that attract the yellowbird. The golden gates of the year, the May-gate. The traveler cannot pass out of Concord by the highways in any direction without passing between such portals,—graceful, curving, drooping, wand-like twigs, on which leaves and blossoms appear together.

5.09.2014

dandelion
...Thoreau's Journal: 09-May-1858

A dandelion perfectly gone to seed, a complete globe, a system in itself.

5.08.2014

Anything but black clothes
...Thoreau's Journal: 08-May-1857

Within a week I have had made a pair of corduroy pants, which cost when done $1.60. They are of that peculiar clay-color, reflecting the light from portions of their surface. They have this advantage, that, beside being very strong, they will look about as well three months hence as now,—or as ill, some would say. Most of my friends are disturbed by my wearing them. I can get four or five pairs for what one ordinary pair would cost in Boston, and each of the former will last two or three times as long under the same circumstances. The tailor said that the stuff was not made in this country; that it was worn by the Irish at home, and now they would not look at it, but others would not wear it, durable and cheap as it is, because it is worn by the Irish. Moreover I like the color on other accounts. Anything but black clothes.

5.07.2014

Finger-cold and windy
...Thoreau's Journal: 07-May-1855

5 A.M. To Island.

Finger-cold and windy. The sweet-flags showed themselves about in their pads. Hear Maryland yellowthroat. Many grackles still in flocks singing on trees, male and female, the latter a very dark or black ash, but with silvery eye. I suspect the red-wings are building. Large white maples began to leaf yesterday, at least, generally; one now shows considerably across the river. The aspen is earlier. Viburnum dentatum yesterday leafed. Bass to-morrow (some shoots sheltered now).

5.06.2014

alive to the extremities
...Thoreau's Journal: 06-May-1854

All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love,—to sing; and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. I look over the report of the doings of a scientific association and am surprised that there is so little life to be reported; I am put off with a parcel of dry technical terms. Anything living is easily and naturally expressed in popular language. I cannot help suspecting that the life of these learned professors has been almost as inhuman and wooden as a rain-gauge or self-registering magnetic machine. They communicate no fact which rises to the temperature of blood-heat. It doesn’t amount to one rhyme.

5.05.2014

vegetable chandeliers
...Thoreau's Journal: 05-May-1859

Am struck by the beauty of the yellow birches, now fairly begun to be in bloom, at Yellow Birch, or Botrychium, Swamp. It is perhaps the handsomest tree or shrub yet in bloom (apparently opened yesterday), of similar character to the alders and poplars, but larger and of higher color. You see a great tree all hung with long yellow or golden tassels at the end of its slender, drooping spray, in clusters at intervals of a few inches or a foot. These are all dangling and incessantly waving in the wind, —a great display of lively blossoms (lively both by their color and motion) without a particle of leaf. Yet they are dense enough to reveal the outline of the tree, seen against the bare twigs of itself and other trees. The tassels of this one in bloom are elongated to two or three times the length of those of another not in bloom by its side. These dancing tassels have the effect of the leaves of the tremble. Those not quite open have a rich, dark, speckled or braided look, almost equally handsome. Golden tassels all trembling in the gentlest breeze, the only signs of life on the trees. A careless observer might not notice them at all. The reawakened springy life of the swamp, the product of its golden veins. These graceful pendants, not in too heavy or dense masses, but thinly dispersed with a noble moderation. Great vegetable chandeliers they stand in the swamp.

5.04.2014

better manure
...Thoreau's Journal: 04-May-1852

R.W.E. tells me he does not like Haynes as well as I do. I tell him that he makes better manure than most men.

5.03.2014

temporary vernal lakes
...Thoreau's Journal: 03-May-1857

Up and down the town, men and boys that are under subjection are polishing their shoes and brushing their go-to-meeting clothes. I, a descendant of Northmen who worshipped Thor, spend my time worshipping neither Thor nor Christ; a descendant of Northmen who sacrificed men and horses, sacrifice neither men nor horses. I care not for Thor nor for the Jews. I sympathize not to-day with those who go to church in newest clothes and sit quietly in straight-backed pews. I sympathize rather with the boy who has none to look after him, who borrows a boat and a paddle and in common clothes sets out to explore these temporary vernal lakes. I meet such a boy paddling along under a sunny bank, with bare feet and his pants rolled up to his knees, ready to leap into the water at a moment’s warning. Better for him to read “Robinson Crusoe” than Baxter’s “Saints’ Rest.”

5.01.2014

Science is inhuman
...Thoreau's Journal: 01-May-1859

Science is inhuman. Things seen with a microscope begin to be insignificant. So described, they are as monstrous as if they should be magnified a thousand diameters. Suppose I should see and describe men and houses and trees and birds as if they were a thousand times larger than they are! With our prying instruments we disturb the balance and harmony of nature.