February 14, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

We shall see but a little way, if we require to understand what we see. How few things can a man measure with the tape of his understanding! How many greater things might he be seeing in the mean while! One afternoon in the fall, November 21st, I saw Fair Haven Pond with its island and meadow; between the island and the shore, a strip of perfectly smooth water in the lee of the island and two ducks sailing on it, and something more I saw which cannot easily be described, which made me say to myself that the landscape could not be improved. I did not see how it could be improved.


Yet I do not know what these things can be. I began to see such objects only when I leave off understanding them, and afterwards remember them. I did not appreciate them before. But I get no farther than this. How adapted these forms and colors to our eyes, a meadow and its islands. What are these things? Yet the hawks and ducks keep so aloof, and nature is so reserved. We are made to love the river and the meadow, as the wind to ripple the water.