May 31, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I am going in search of the Azalea Nudiflora….


The fact that a rare & beautiful flower which we never saw–perhaps never heard for which therefore there was no place in our thoughts may at length be found in our immediate neighborhood, is very suggestive.

[Very long passage follows about this search. To my reading Thoreau’s jury was out as to whether he eventually found Azalea Nudiflora. The photo attached is of what I imagine he saw as it blooms prolifically now in exactly the types of locations he describes in this passage.]

May 30, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I am surprised to find arethusa abundantly out in Hubbards Close May be 2 or 3 days though not yet at Arethusa meadow prob on account of the recent freshet– It is so leafless that it shoots up unexpectedly


It is all color a little hook of purple flame projecting from the meadow into the air. Some are comparatively pale. This high colored plant shoots up suddenly all flower in meadows where it is wet walking.

May 29, 2016

On the seasons of Thoreau:

Ecclesiastes 3:1:  There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

Thoreau in his Journal:

Spring 1850: The year has many seasons more than are recognized in the almanac.

June 11, 1851:  No one to my knowledge, has observed the minute differences in the seasons. Hardly two nights are alike. The rocks do not feel warm to-night, for the air is warmest; nor does the sand particularly. A book of the seasons, each page of which should be written out-of-doors, or in its own locality wherever it may be.

July 5, 1852:  The progress of the season is indescribable.

April 23, 1859:  There is a season for everything, and we do not notice a given phenomenon except at that season, if, indeed, it can be called the same phenomenon at any other season. There is a time to watch the ripples on Ripple Lake, to look for arrowheads, to study the rocks and lichens, a time to walk on sandy deserts; and the observer of nature must improve these seasons as much as the farmer his. So boys fly kites and play ball or hawkie at particular times all over the State. A wise man will know what game to play to-day, and play it. We must not be governed by rigid rules, as by the almanac, but let the season rule us. The moods and thoughts of man are revolving just as steadily and incessantly as nature’s. Nothing must be postponed.

September 13, 1852:  How earnestly and rapidly each creature, each flower, is fulfilling its part while its day lasts! Nature never lost a day, nor a moment. As the planet in its orbit and around its axis, so do the seasons, so does time, revolve, with a rapidity inconceivable.

October 25, 1857: These regular phenomena of the seasons get at last to be ––they were at first, of course  ––simply and plainly phenomena or phases of my life. The seasons and all their changes are in me. I see not a dead eel or floating snake, or a gull, but it rounds my life and is like a line or accent in its poem. Almost I believe the Concord would not rise and overflow its banks again, were I not here. After a while I learn what my moods and seasons are. I would have nothing subtracted. I can imagine nothing added. My moods are thus periodical, not two days in my year alike. The perfect correspondence of Nature to man, so that he is home in her!

November 17, 1858: Not only different objects are presented to our attention at different seasons of the year, but we are in a frame of body and mind to appreciate different objects at different seasons.

December 5, 1856:  I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing without it at all other times. It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all. I find it invariably true, the poorer I am, the richer I am.


May 29, 1853

 in Thoreau’s Journal


That exceedingly neat & interesting little flower blue-eyed grass now claims our attention.

March 27, 1858:

How fitly and exactly any season of the year may be described by indicating the condition of some flower!

May 23, 1853

Every new flower that opens, no doubt, expresses a new mood of the human mind.

May 27, 1852

 in Thoreau’s Journal

The fringed polygala near the Corner Spring is a delicate flower with very fresh tender green leaves & red-purple blossoms.


Beautiful from the contrast of its clear red purple flowers with its clear green leaves.


Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –

but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

—Mary Oliver


May 26, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A high-blue berry bush by roadside beyond the bridge––very full of blossoms– It has the more florid & blooming effect because the leaves are few & quite distinct or standing out from the flowers–


the countless inverted white mugs (in rows & every where as on counter or shelves) with their peculiar green calyxes– If there are as many berries as blossoms we shall fare well.

May 25, 1854

 in Thoreau’s Journal


Butter cups now densely spot the church yard.

June 15, 1852 in Thoreau’s Journal:

How rapidly new flowers unfold! as if Nature would get through her work too soon. One has as much as he can do to observe how flowers successively unfold. It is a flowery revolution, to which but few attend. Hardly too much attention can be bestowed on flowers. We follow we march after, the highest color; that is our flag, our standard, our “color.” Flowers were made to be seen, not overlooked. Their bright colours imply eyes, spectators.

May 24, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:


The smooth speedwell is in its prime now whitening the sides of the back road…its sweet little pansy-like face—looks up on all sides— This and the myosotis laxa


are the two most beautiful little flowers yet— If I remember rightly.

May 23, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal


This earth which is spread out like a map around me—is but the lining of my inmost soul exposed—

March 10, 1841
Who looks in the sun will see no light else; but also he will see no shadow. Our life revolves unceasingly, but the centre is ever the same, and the wise will regard only the seasons of the soul.


The citation on the photo graphic (Indian Beach, Grand Manan) is the rubric for my current writing about Thoreau’s Journal. For some time it’s seemed important to me to survey the Journal for Thoreau’s usages of “season”. But 2,000,000 words is a lot to read searching for one term.

It has taken me a while, but I have now assembled the 1906 Edition of the Journal, the only fairly complete version of it available in digital format. It makes a PDF that’s a continuous document about 7,000 pages long. But it’s searchable!! Today I identified more than 1,000 usages of “season/s” and read about half of them, copying out ones that support my thesis (or, if you will, Thoreau’s own ambition to write a book of the seasons).

This is the first substantial indication I’ve had that this project will be possible to actualize. My survey today has provided affirming and fascinating insights into Thoreau’s notion of “seasons.” I feel I have a much more detailed understanding what “seasons” meant to him. Maybe 1/2 of what I read today supported what I’d call the normative calendar versions of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. He did not deny these existed in any way. But the other 1/2 opened up new (suspected) vistas that are much more interesting and obviously were of greater significance to him if judged by how he detailed them. Exciting!

Feeling great!

May 22, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is clear June—the first day of summer— The rye which when I last looked was 1 foot high is now 3 feet high & waving & tossing its heads in the wind— ….Why the sickle & cradle will soon be taken up.


Though I walk every day—I am never prepared for this magical growth of the rye. I am advanced by whole months as it were into summer.

May 21, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The earlier apple trees are in bloom—& resound with the hum of bees of all sizes & other insects. To sit under the 1st apple tree in blossom is to take another step into summer.


The apple blossoms are so abundant & full-white tinged with red—a rich—scented pomona fragrance—telling of heaps of apples in the autumn—perfectly innocent wholesome & delicious—


May 20, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Now is the season of the leafing of the trees & of planting. The fields are white with houstonias as they will soon be yellow with buttercups.

P5138412 (1).jpg

Perchance the beginning of summer may be dated from the fully formed leaves—when dense shade? begins—I will see. High blue berries at length. It is unnecessary to speak of them. All flowers are beautiful….A ladies slipper well budded and now white.


May 19, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:
Found the arum triphyllum & the nodding trillium or wake Robin in Conant’s swamp.


An ash also in bloom there—& the sassafras quite striking. — Also the Fringed Polygala by the Conantum wood.


May 18, 1852

P5298326.jpg in Thoreau’s Journal:

The heaven is now broad & 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 by any greener… This tender foliage —putting so much light & life into the landscape is the remarkable feature at this date. The week when the deciduous trees are generally and conspicuously expanding their leaves.



Spring Day

Beautiful is the day that brings us home
From our domain of cold and winter bower,
From iron earth to trees in tassely flower,
And gentle airs, and the soft-springing loam.

Offhand and royal, we are the carefree lords
Of these sumptuous rooms where light flows green
These corridors of air, these feathery swards
Under a sky-blue ceiling, high and clean.

We lie on the enormous grassy bed
Sheltered as princes under mothering air
Where the anemone shines like a star,
And rivers flow through veined leaves overhead;

And hold each other close in the green chance,
Hold each other against time and waste,
Come home here in a spring that is only once
And watch how the birds are swift, yet without haste.

At last we inhabit the dream, are really floating
As princes of the hour, while these green palaces
Glide into summer, where we too are going
With all the birds, and leaves, and all the kisses.

—May Sarton


May 17, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

So too the green veils, or screens of the birches rapidly thickened….It is the first to clothe large tracts of deciduous woodlands with green-& perchance it marks an epoch in the season. the TRANSITION decidedly and generally from bare twigs to leaves.


When the birches have put on their green sacks then a new season has come.— The light reflected from their tender yellowish green is like sunlight.

May 16, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a splendid day—so clear & bright & fresh—the warmth of the air & the bright tender verdure putting forth on all sides make an impression of luxuriance & genialness—so perfectly fresh & uncankered.


A sweet scent fills the air from the expanding leaflets or some other source— The earth is all fragrant as one flower. & bobolinks tinkle in the air Nature now is perfectly genial to man—


Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome

— Emily Dickinson

May 15, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Looked off from hill top. Trees generally are now bursting into leaf. The aspect of oak and other woods at a distance is somewhat like that of a very thick & reddish or yellowish mist above the evergreens—


In other directions the light graceful—& more distinct yellowish green forms of birch are seen & in swamps the reddish or brown crescents of the red maple tops—now covered with keys— Oak leaves are as big as a mouses ear….

May 14, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The trillium is budded….


a drooping flower with tender stems & leaves; the latter curled so as to show their undersides hanging about the stems—as if shrinking from the cold.