December 8, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Winter has come unnoticed by me, I have been so busy writing. This is the life most lead in respect to Nature. How different from my habitual one! It is hasty, coarse, and trivial, as if you were a spindle in a factory. The other is leisurely, fine, and glorious, like a flower. In the first case you are merely getting your living; in the second you live as you go along. You travel only on roads of the proper grade without jar or running off the track, and sweep round the hills by beautiful curves.

December 6, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

How every one of these leaves that are blown about the snow-crust or lie neglected beneath, soon to turn to mould! Not merely a matted mass of fibres like a sheet of paper, but a perfect organism and system in itself, so that no mortal has ever yet discerned or explored its beauty.

December 5, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The sun goes down behind a low cloud & the world is darkened—the partridge is budding on the apple tree—& burst away from the pathside. Fair Haven pond is skimmed completely over— The ground has been frozen more or less—about a week—not very hard…. Before I got home the whole atmosphere was suddenly filled with a mellow yellowish light equally diffused—so that it seemed much lighter around me than immediately after the sun sank behind the horizon cloud 15 minutes before. — Apparently not till the sun had sunk thus far did I stand in the angle of reflection.

December 4, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I love the few homely colors of nature at this season, her strong, wholesome browns, her sober and primeval grays, her celestial  blue, her vivacious green, her pure cold snowy white.

December 3, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

But even in winter we maintain a temperate cheer —& a serene inner life—not destitute of warmth & melody—Only the cold evergreens wear the aspect of summer now and shelter the winter birds.

December 2, 1839

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A rare landscape immediately suggests a suitable inhabitant, whose breath shall be its wind, whose moods its seasons, and to whom it will always to be fair. To be chafed and worried, and not as serene as nature, does not become one whose nature is as steadfast….

December 1, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The dear wholesome color of shrub oak leaves—so clean & firm not decaying, but which have put on a kind of immortality—not wrinkled & thin like the white oak leaves—but full veined & plump as nearer earth—Well tanned leather on the one side–sun-tanned—color of colors—color of the cow and the deer—silver downy beneath turned toward the late bleached & russet fields—What are acanthus leaves & the rest to this?  Emblem of my winter condition.

I love & could embrace the shrub oak with its scanty garment of leaves rising above the snow—lowly whispering to me–akin to winter thoughts & sunsets & to all virtue. Covert which the hare & partridge and I  seek. What cousin of mine is the shrub oak? How can any man suffer long?  For a sense of want is a prayer & all prayers are answered.— Rigid as iron–clean as the atmosphere—hardy as virtue—innocent & sweet as a maiden—is the shrub-oak. In proportion as I know & love it—I am natural & sound as a partridge. I felt a positive yearning toward one bush this afternoon. There was a match found for me at last— I fell in love with a shrub-oak. Tenacious of its leaves—which shrivel not but retain a certain wintry life in them—firm shields painted in fast colors—a rich brown– 

November 30, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Where is my home? It is indistinct as an old cellar hole now a faint indentation merely in a farmer’s field—which he has ploughed into & rounded off its edges—years ago and I sit by the old site on the stump of an oak which once grew there.  Such is the nature where we have lived— Thick birch groves stand here & there dark brown? now with white lines more or less distinct—


By Robert Frost

Back out of all this now too much for us,

Back in a time made simple by the loss

Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off

Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,

There is a house that is no more a house

Upon a farm that is no more a farm

And in a town that is no more a town.

The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you

Who only has at heart your getting lost,

May seem as if it should have been a quarry—

Great monolithic knees the former town

Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.

And there’s a story in a book about it:

Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels

The ledges show lines ruled southeast northwest,

The chisel work of an enormous Glacier

That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.

You must not mind a certain coolness from him

Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal

Of being watched from forty cellar holes

As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.

As for the woods’ excitement over you

That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,

Charge that to upstart inexperience.

Where were they all not twenty years ago?

They think too much of having shaded out

A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.

Make yourself up a cheering song of how

Someone’s road home from work this once was,

Who may be just ahead of you on foot

Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.

The height of the adventure is the height

Of country where two village cultures faded

Into each other. Both of them are lost.

And if you’re lost enough to find yourself

By now, pull in your ladder road behind you

And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.

Then make yourself at home. The only field

Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.

First there’s the children’s house of make believe,

Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,

The playthings in the playhouse of the children.

Weep for what little things could make them glad.

Then for the house that is no more a house,

But only a belilaced cellar hole,

Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.

This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.

Your destination and your destiny’s

A brook that was the water of the house,

Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,

Too lofty and original to rage.

(We know the valley streams that when aroused

Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)

I have kept hidden in the instep arch

Of an old cedar at the waterside

A broken drinking goblet like the Grail

Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,

So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.

(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)

Here are your waters and your watering place.

Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

November 29, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

About three inches of snow fell last night. How light and bright the day now; methinks it is was good as a half hour added to the day. White houses no longer stand out and stare in the landscape. The pine woods snowed up look more like the bare oak woods with their gray boughs. The river meadows show now far off a dull straw color or pale brown amid the general white, where the coarse sedge rises about the snow; and distant oak woods are now indistinctly reddish. It is a clear and pleasant winter day. The snow has taken all the November out of the sky. 

November 28, 1850

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is very still yet in the woods. There are no leaves to rustle, no crickets to chirp, and but few birds to sing.

The pines standing in the ocean of mist, seen from the Cliffs, are trees in every stage of transition from the actual to the imaginary. The near are more distinct, the distant more faint, till at last they are a mere shadowy cone in the distance. What then are these solid pines become? You can command only a circle of thirty or forty rods in diameter. As you advance, the trees gradally come out of the mist and take form before your eyes. You are reminded of your dreams. Life looks like a dream. You are prepared to see visions. And now, just before sundown, the night wind blows up more mist through the valley, thickening the veil which already hung over the trees, and the gloom of night gathers early and rapidly around. Birds lose their way.

November 27, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Now a man will eat his heart if ever—now while the earth is bare barren & cheerless—and we have the coldness of winter without the variety of ices & snow —but methinks the variety & compensation are in the stars now— How bright they are now by contrast with the dark earth! —The days are short enough now. The sun is already setting before I have reached the ordinary limit of my walk—but the 21st of next month the day will be shorter by about 25 minutes.

November 25, 1850

in Thoreau’s Journal:

This afternoon, late & cold as it is has been a sort of Indian summer. Indeed, I think we have summer days from time to time the winter through, and that it is often the snow on the ground which makes the whole difference. This afternoon the air was indescribably clear—& exhilarating—& though the thermometer would have shown it to be cold I thought there was a finer & purer warmth than in summer.  A wholesome intellectual warmth in which the body was warmed by the mind’s contentment—  The warmth hardly sensuous but rather the satisfaction of existence….

November 24, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

When I looked out this morning, the landscape presented a very pretty wintry sight, little now as there was. Being very moist, it had lodged on every twig, and every one had its counterpart in a light, downy, white one, twice or thrice its own depth, resting on it.

November 21, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The rare wholesome and permanent beauty of withered oak leaves of various hues of brown mottling a hillside, especially seen when the sun is low—Quaker colors, sober ornaments, beauty that quite satisfies the eye.

November 19, 1850

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The first really cold day. I find, on breaking off a shrub oak leaf, a little life at the foot of the leafstalk, so that a part of the green comes off. It has not died quite down to the point of separation, as it will do, I suppose, before spring. Most of the oaks have lost their leaves except on the lower branches, as if they were less exposed and less mature there, and felt the changes of the seasons less. The leaves have either fallen or withered long since, yet I found this afternoon, cold as it is, – and there has been snow in the neighborhood, – some sprouts which had come up this year from the stump of a young black-looking oak, covered still with handsome fresh red and green leaves, very large and unwithered and unwilted. It was on the south side of Fair Haven in a warm angle, where the wood was cut last winter and the exposed edge of the still standing wood running north and south met the cliff at right angles and served for a fence to keep off the wind. There were one or two stumps here whose sprouts had fresh leaves which transported me back to October. Yet the surrounding shrub oak leaves were as dry and dead as usual.

There were also some minute birches only a year old, their leaves still freshly yellow, and some young wild apple trees apparently still growing, their leaves as green and tender as in summer. The goldenrods, one or more species of the white and some yellow ones, were many of them still quite fresh, though elsewhere they are all whitish and dry. I saw one whose top rose above the edge of a rock, and so much of it was turned white and dry; but the lower part of its raceme was still yellow. Some of the white species seemed to have started again as if for another spring. They had sprung up freshly a foot or more, and were budded to blossom, fresh and green. And sometimes on the same stem were old and dry and white downy flowers, and fresh green blossom-buds, not yet expanded. I saw there some pale blue asters still bright, and the mullein leaves still large and green, one green to its top. And I discovered that when I put my hand on the mullein leaves they felt decidedly warm, but the radical leaves of the goldenrods felt cold and clammy.