February 28, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:

As I go down the Boston Road–I see an Irishman wheeling home from far–a large damp & rotten pine log–for fuel– He evidently sweats at it & pauses to rest many times. He found perhaps that his woodpile was gone before the winter was–& he trusts this to contend with the remaining cold. I see him unload it in his yard before me–& then rest himself. The piles of solid oak wood which I see in other yards do not interest me at all, but this looked like fuel.  — It inspired me to think of it. He will now proceed to split it finely–& then I fear it requires almost as much heat to dry it, as it will give out at last.  

How rarely we are encouraged by the sight of simple actions in the street– We deal with banks & other institutions where the life & humanity are concealed–what there is. I like at least to see the great beams half exposed in the ceiling or the corner–

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February 27, 1851

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

Walking in the woods, it may be some afternoon, the shadow of the wings of a thought flits across the landscape of my mind, and I am reminded how little eventful are our lives. What have been all these wars and rumors of wars, and modern discoveries and improvements, so called? A mere irritation in the skin. But this shadow which is so soon past, and whose substance is not detected, suggests that there are events of importance whose interval is to us a true historic period. 

February 26, 1841

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

In composition I miss the hue of the mind. As if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning and evening—without their colors—or the heavens without their azure.

February 24, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A fine spring morning. The ground is almost completely bare again. There has been a frost in the night. Now at half past eight it is melted and wets my feet like a dew. The water on the meadow this still bright morning is smooth as in April. I am surprised to hear the strain of a song-sparrow from the river side,

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and as I cross from the causeway to the hill, thinking of the bluebird, I that instant hear one’s note from deep in the softened air…Their short rich warble curls through the air…It seems to be one of those early springs of which we have heard, but which we have never experienced.

February 23, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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What evidence is there of spring? This light & warm sun–which compels us to throw our outside coats open wide–or take them off–even to seek the shade for coolness– — This rapidly melting snow & these sparkling currents by the roadside– this softened ice–but above all the warble of a single blue-bird that came to us out of the softened air.

February 22, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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A mild misty day….the ringlets & ends of usnea are so expanded & puffed out with light & life….they take the place of leaves in the winter.— The clusters dripping with moisture…

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February 20, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Pm Skating to Fair Haven Pond

Made a fire on the south side of the pond. Using—canoe birch bark & oak leaves for kindlings…

We skated home in the dark—with an odor of smoke in our clothes. It was pleasant to dash over the ice—feeling the inequalities which we could not see—now rising over considerable hillocks for it had settled on the meadows—now descending into corresponding hollows.

We have had but one & no more this winter (and that I think was the first) of those gentle moist snows which lodge perfectly on the trees—and make perhaps the most beautiful sight of any.

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February 19, 1841

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is the unexplored grandeur of the storm which keeps up the spirits of the traveller. When I contemplate a hard and bare life in the woods, I find my last consolation in its untrivialness— Shipwreck is less distressing because the breakers do not trifle with us. We are resigned as long as we recognise the sober and solemn mystery of nature. The dripping mariner finds consolation and sympathy in the infinite sublimity of the storm— It is a moral force as well as he. With courage he can lay down his life on the strand, for it never turned a deaf ear to him—nor has he ever exhausted its sympathy.

In the love of narrow souls I make many short voyages, but in vain—I find no sea room—but in great souls I sail before the wind without a watch, and never reach the shore.

February 18, 1838

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I had not been out long to-day when it seemed that a new Spring was already born—not quite weaned it is true, but verily entered upon existence.

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Nature struck up “the same old song in the grass”, despite eighteen inches of snow, and I contrived to smuggle away a grin of satisfaction by a smothered—“pshaw—and is that all?”

February 17, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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The mice tracks are very amusing. It is surprising how numerous they are—& yet I rarely see one— ….Any tussocky ground is scored with them—  ….You see deep & distinct channels in the snow in some places as if a whole colony had long traveled to & fro in them—a high-way—a well-known trail—but suddenly they will come to an end—& yet they have not dived beneath the snow…

February 16, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:

2 pm To Walden 

A snow-storm which began in the night –& is now 3 or 4 inches deep– The ground which was more than half bare before–is thus suddenly concealed–& the snow lodges on the trees & fences & sides of houses–& we have a perfect wintry scene again– We hear that it stormed at Philadelphia yesterday morning. 

As look I toward the woods beyond the poor house– & see how the trees—esp apple trees, are suddenly brought out–relieved against the snow–black on white–every twig as distinct as if it were a pen & ink drawing the size of nature. The snow being spread for a back ground, while the storm still raging confines your view to near objects–each apple tree is distinctly outlined against it.  

Suddenly too where of late all was tawney brown in pastures–I see a soft snowy field with the pale brown lichens just peeping out of it. 

It is a moist & starry snow–lodging on trees–leaf bough & trunk. The pines are well laden with it. How handsome, though wintry the side of a high pine wood–well greyed with the snow that has lodged on it– & the smaller pitch pines converted into marble or alabaster–with their lowered plumes–like rams-heads’ drawings.

The character of the wood paths is wholly changed by the new fallen snow–- not only all tracks are concealed–but the pines drooping over it–& half concealing or filling it, it is merely a long chink or winding open space between the trees– 

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This snow, as I have often noticed, before, & other crystals is composed of stars–with a very fine cotton intermixed. It lodges & rests softly on the horizontal limbs of oaks & pines–- On the fruit & dry leaflets (?) of the alders that stand over the pond it is in the form of little cones 2 inches high–making them snow ball plants. So many little crystalline wheels packed in cotton. 

When we descend on to Goosepond–we find that the snow rests more thickly on the numerous zigzag & horizontal branches of the high blueberries that start bend over it–than on any deciduous shrub or tree producing a very handsome snowy maze & can thus distinguish this shrub–by the manner in which the snow lies on it–quite across the pond. It is remarkable also how very distinct & white every plane surface as the rocks which lie here and there amid the blueberries or higher on the bank–a place where no twig or weed rises to interrupt the pure white impression. In fact this crystalline snow–lies up so light & downey that it evidently admits more light than usual & the surface is more white & glowing for it– It is semi transparent. This is especially the case with the snow lying upon rocks, or musquash houses–which is elevated & brought between you & the light.  It is partially transparent like alabaster.  Also all the birds nests in the blueberry are bushes revealed–by the great snow balls they hold.

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February 15, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:

All day a steady, warm, imprisoning rain, carrying off the snow, not unmusical on my roof. It is a rare time for the student and reader who cannot go aboard in the P.M., provided he can keep awake, for we are wont to be as drowsy as cats in such weather.

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Without, it is not walking, but wading. It is so long since I have heard it, that the steady rushing, soaking sound of the rain on the shingles is musical. The fire needs no replenishing, and we save our fuel. It seems like a distant forerunner of spring. It is because I am allied to the elements that the sound of the rain is thus soothing to me. This sound sinks into my spirit, as the water into the earth, reminding me of the season when snow and ice will be no more, when the earth will be thawed, and drink up the rain as fast as it falls.

February 13, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Winter comes to make walking possible where there was no walking in the summer.  Not till winter can we take possession of the whole of our territory…The wonderful stillness of a winter day!

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The sources of sound are, as it were, frozen up…A transient acquaintance with any phenomenon is not sufficient to make it completely the subject of your muse. You must be so conversant with it as to remember it, and be reminded of it long afterward, while it lies remotely fair and elysian in the horizon, approachable only by the imagination.

February 12, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Walk up river to F.H. Pond.  Clear &  windy NW.  … In this cold, clear, rough air from the N.W. we walk amid what simple surroundings, surrounded by our thoughts or imaginary objects–living in our ideas,  but one in a million ever sees the objects which are actually around him—  Above me is a cloudless blue sky, beneath is the sky blue…

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Whatever aid is to be derived from the use of a scientific term, we can never begin to see any thing as it is—so long as we remember the scientific term which always our ignorance has imposed on it. Natural objects & phenomena are in this sense forever wild and unnamed by us.

February 11, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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….Now, as after a freshet in cold weather, the ice which had formed around and frozen to the trees and bushes along the shore, settling, draws them down to the ground or water, after breaking them extensively. It reminds you of an alligator or other evil genius of the river pulling the trees and bushes, which had come to drink, into the water. If a maple or alder is unfortunate enough to slip its lower limbs into the freshet, dallying with it, their fate is sealed, for the water freezing that night takes fast hold of them like a vise, and when the water runs out from beneath an irresistible weight brings them down to the ground and holds them there. Only the spring will soften the heart of the relentless monster when commonly it is too late.

February 10, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A fine clear day— There is a glare of light from the fresh unstained surface of the snow that it pains the eyes to travel toward the sun. I go across Walden.  My shadow is very blue—

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It is especially blue when there is a bright sun light on pure white snow— It suggests that there may be something divine—something celestial in me.

February 9, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Snowed harder in the night & blowed considerably. It is somewhat drifted this morning. A very fine & dry snow about a foot deep on a level. 

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It stands on the top of our pump about 10 inches deep almost a perfect hemisphere or half of an ellipse.