October 6, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I observe too that the ferns of a rich brown (being sere),about swamps, etc., are an important feature. A broad belt of rich brown (and crisp) ferns stands about many a bright maple swamp.

October 5, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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 now see all headed 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.

October 3, 1840

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Why need I travel to seek a site, and consult the points of the compass? My eyes are south windows, and out of these I command a southern prospect. The eye does the least drudgery of any of the senses. It oftenest escapes to a higher employment. The rest serve and escort and defend it. I attach some superiority, even priority, to this sense. It is the oldest servant in the soul’s household; it images what it imagines, it ideates what it idealizes. Through it idolatry crept in which is a kind of religion. If any joy or grief is to be expressed, the eye is the swift runner that carries the news. In circumspection, double, in fidelity, single, it serves truth always, and carries no false news….

How man serves this sense more than any other!  When he builds a house, he does not forget to put a window in the wall. We see truth. We are children of light. Our destiny is dark. No other sense has so much to do with the future. The body of science will not be complete till every sense has thus ruled our thought and language and action in its turn.

October 2, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The leaves of some trees merely wither, turn brown, and drop off at this season, without any conspicuous flush of beauty, while others now first attain to the climax of their beauty.

October 1, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Examined an Asclepias Cornuti pod, already opening. As they dry, the pods crack open by the seam along their convex or outer side, revealing the seeds with their silky parachutes, closely packed in an imbricated manner, already right side up, to the number in one instance of 134, as I counted, and again 270. As they lie, they resemble somewhat a round plump fish, with the silk ends exposed at the tail. Children call them fishes. The silk is divided once or twice by the raised partition of the spongy core around which they are arranged. At the top of some more open and drier, is already a little clump of loosened seeds and down two or three inches in diameter, held by the converging tips of the down, like meridians, and just ready to float away when the wind rises.

September 29, 1840

in Thoreau’s Journal:

All fair action in man is the product of enthusiasm –– There is enthusiasm in the sunset. The shell on the shore takes new layers and new tints from year to year with such rapture as the bard writes his poem. There is a thrill in the spring, when it buds and blossoms––there is happiness in the summer––a contentedness in the autumn––a patient repose in the winter. 

Nature does nothing in the prose mood, though sometimes grimly with poetic fury, as in earthquakes &c and at other times humorously.

September 27, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A small red maple has grown, perchance, far away on some moist hillside, a mile from any road, unobserved. It has faithfully discharged the duties of a maple there, all winter and summer, neglected none of its economies, added to its stature in the virtue which belongs to a maple, by a steady growth all summer, and is nearer heaven than it was in the spring, never having gone gadding abroad; and now, in this month of September, when men are turned travellers, hastening to the seaside, or the mountains, or the lakes — in this month of travelling — this modest maple, having ripened its seeds, still without budging an inch, travels on its reputation, runs up its scarlet flag on that hillside, to show that it has finished its summer’s work before all other trees, and withdraws from the contest. Thus that modest worth which no scrutiny could have detected when it was most industrious, is, by the very tint of its maturity, by its very blushes, revealed at last to the careless and distant observer. It rejoices in its existence; its reflections are unalloyed. It is the day of thanksgiving with it. At last, its labors for the year being fully consummated and every leaf ripened to its full, it flashes out conspicuous to the eye of the most casual observer, with all the virtue and beauty of a maple — Acer rubrum. In its hue is no regret nor pining. Its leaves have been asking their parent from time to time in a whisper, “When shall we redden?” It has faithfully husbanded its sap, and builded without babbling nearer and nearer to heaven. Long since it committed its seeds to the winds and has the satisfaction of knowing perhaps that a thousand little well-behaved maples are already established in business somewhere. It deserves well of Mapledom. It has afforded a shelter to the wandering bird. Its autumnal tint shows how it has spent its summer; it is the hue of its virtue.

September 26, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The small cottony leaves of the fragrant everlasting in the fields for some time. Protected as it were by a little web of cotton against frost & snow— A little dense web of cotton spun over it-(entangled in it) as if to restrain it from rising higher.

September 25, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The red maple has fairly begun to blush in some places by the river. I see one, by the canal behind Barrett’s mill, all aglow against the sun. These first trees that change are the most interesting, since they are seen against others still freshly green — such brilliant red on green. I go half a mile out of my way to examine such a red banner. A single tree becomes the crowning beauty of some meadowy vale and attracts the attention of the traveller from afar.

At the eleventh hour of the year, some tree which has stood mute and inglorious in some distant vale thus proclaims its character as effectually as if it stood by the highway-side, and it leads our thoughts away from the dusty road into those brave solitudes which it inhabits. The whole tree, thus ripening in advance of its fellows, attains a singular preeminence. I am thrilled at the sight of it, bearing aloft its scarlet standard for its regiment of green-clad foresters around. The forest is the more spirited.

September 24, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A man must attend to nature closely for many years to know when, as well as where, to look for his objects, since he must always anticipate her a little….I would know when in the year to expect certain thoughts and moods….

September 22, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The mountain-ash trees are alive with robins and cherry-birds nowadays, stripping them of their fruit (in drooping clusters). It is exceedingly bitter and austere to my taste. Such a tree fills the air with the watch-spring-like note of the cherry-birds coming and going.

September 20, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

3 P. M. – To Cliffs via Bear Hill.

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 the week, and dealing with the most commonplace and worldly-minded men, and emphatically trivial things, I feel as if I had committed suicide in a sense. 

September 19, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I have given myself up to nature– I have tried so many Springs & summers & autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but to live them–& 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 & 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? It has been my vacation–my season of growth & expansion–a prolonged youth–