January 31, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

We too have our thaws— They come to our January moods—when our ice cracks—& our sluices break loose — Thought that was frozen up under stern experience gushes forth in feelings & expression— This is a freshet which carries away dams of accumulated ice—


Our thoughts hide unexpressed like the buds under their downy or resinous scales— They would hardly keep a partridge from starving.  If you would know what are my winter thoughts, look for them in the partridge’s crop— They are like the laurel buds—, some leaf, some blossom buds—which though food for such indigenous creatures, will not expand into leaves & flowers until summer comes. 

Et primates oritur herba imbribus primarius evocata  [the first grass springs up, called by the first rains] — says Varro

January 30, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Up river on ice & snow to Fair Haven Pond––

There is a few inches of snow perfectly level which now for nearly a week has covered the ice– Going toward the sun you are snow-blinded–– At each clump of willows on the meadow it looks as if there were a hillock––out of which they grow–– This appearance is produced by the willow twigs holding up the ice to height at which it was frozen after the last thaw about 2 feet above the present level.— It forms a regularly rounded hillock. We look at every track in the snow — Every little while there is the track of a fox across the river—turning aside sometimes to a muskrats cabin or a point of ice—where he has left some traces— frequently the larger track of a hound which has followed his trail— It is much easier & pleasanter to walk thus on the river—the snow being shallow & level —& there is no such loud squeaking or crunching of the snow as in the road—and This road is so wide that you do not feel confined in it—& you never meet travelers with whom you have no sympathy. The winter, cold & bound out as it is, is thrown to us like a bone to a famishing dog, & we are expected to get the marrow out of it. While the milkmen in the outskirts are milking so many scores of cows before sunrise these winter mornings, it is our task to milk the winter itself. It is true it is like a cow that is dry & our fingers are numb—& there is none to wake up us— Some desert the field & go into winter quarters in the city— They attend the oratorios while the only music that we hear is the squeaking of the snow under our boots. But the winter was not given to us for no purpose— We must thaw its cold with our genialness. We are tasked to find out & appropriate all the nutriment it yields— If it is a cold & hard season—its fruit no doubt is the more concentrated & nutty. It took the cold & bleakness of November to ripen the walnut—but the human brain is the kernel which the winter itself matures— Not till then does its shell come off— The seasons were not made in vain— Because the fruits of the earth are already ripe—we are not to suppose there is no fruit left for winter to ripen. — It is for man the seasons and the all the fruits exist. The winter was made to concentrate & harden & mature the kernel of his brain—to give tone & firmness & consistency to his thought— Then is the great harvest of the year—the harvest of thought— All previous harvests are stubble to this—mere fodder & green crop. Now we burn with a purer flame like the stars, our oil is winter-strained.  We are islanded in Atlantic & Pacific—& Indian Oceans of thought— Bermudas or Friendly or Spice Islands—

Shall we take refuge in cities in November?— shall the nut fall green from the tree? Let not the year be disappointed of its crop— A crazy man walked into an empty pulpit one Sunday & taking up a hymnbook remarked — We have had a good fall for getting in corn & potatoes—let us sing winter— So I say let us sing winter— What else can we sing—and our voices be in harmony with the season. 

As we walked up the river—a little flock of chickadees apparently flew to us from a woodside 15 rods off & uttered their lively day day day—& followed us along at a considerable distance—flitting by our side on the button bushes & willows—it is the most if not the only sociable bird we have.

Now is the time to fill ice houses- – Brown filled his last week.

I will be a country man— I will not go to the city—even in winter, any more than the sallows & sweet-gale by the river do— I see their yellow osiers & freckled handsomely imbricated buds still rising above the ice & snow there—to cheer me—

The white rabbit is a large fellow well furred—what does he get to eat—being a vegetable liver—? He must be hardy & cunning in his way— His race have learned by long practice to find their food where a new comer would inevitably starve.

How retired an otter manages to live. He grows to be 4 feet longer without any mortal getting a glimpse of him.

Sometimes one of those great cakes of green ice from Walden or Sam Barretts pond slips from the ice man’s sled in the street and lies there like a great emerald—an object of interest to all travelers.


The hips of the late rose are still abundant & perfect amid the button bushes—

January 29, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Men lie behind the barrier of a relation as effectually concealed as the landscape by a mist; and when at length some unforeseen accident throws me into a new attitude toward them, I am astounded as if for the first time I saw the sun on the hillside.


January 27, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I do not know but thoughts written down thus in a journal might be printed in the same form with greater advantage than if the related ones were brought together into separate essays. 


They are now allied to life, and are seen by the reader not to be far-fetched….Whether the flower looks better in the nosegay than in the meadow where it grew, and we had to wet our feet to get it! Is the scholastic air any advantage?


January 26, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

We really have four seasons, each incredible to the other.  Winter cannot be mistaken for summer here. Though I see the boat turned up on the shore, and half buried under snow, as I walk over the invisible river, summer is far away with its rustling reeds….

Would you see your mind, look into the sky.  Would you know your own moods, be weather-wise. He whom the weather disappoints, disappoints himself.

January 25, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:


What a rich book might be made about buds, including perhaps, sprouts. The impregnable, vivacious willow catkins, but half asleep along the twigs, under the armor of their black scales, the birch and oak sprouts, the rank and lusty dogwood sprouts, the sound, red buds of the blueberry, the small pointed red buds, close to the twig, of the panicled andromeda, the large yellowish buds of the swamp pink, etc. How healthy and vivacious must he be who would treat of these things.

January 23, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

When I detect a beauty in any of the recesses of nature, I am reminded by the serene and retired spirit in which it requires to be contemplated—of the inexpressible privacy of a life.  How silent and unambitious it is! The beauty there is in mosses will have to be considered from the holiest, quietest nook.  —The gods delight in stillness…My truest, serenest moments are too still for emotion. They have woolen feet. In all our lives, we live under the hill, and if we are not gone, we live there still.


January 22, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:


Once or twice of late I have seen the mother-of-pearl tints and rainbow flecks in the western sky. The usual time is when the air is clear and pretty cool, about an hour before sunset.


Yesterday I saw a very permanent specimen, like a long knife handle of mother-of-pearl, very pale with and interior blue, and rosaceous tinges. I think the summer sky never exhibits this so finely.


No second snow-storm in the winter can be so fair and interesting as the first.

January 21, 1838

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor. Even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveler….It was as if some superincumbent stratum of the earth had been removed in the night, exposing to light a bed of untarnished crystals.

The scene changed at every step, or as the head was inclined to the right or to the left….


Such is beauty ever, neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire.

January 20, 1856

 in Thoreau’s Journal:


It is now good walking on the river….The river is thus an advantage as a highway, not only in summer, and when the ice is bare in winter, but even when the snow lies very deep in the fields.

January 18th

in Thoreau’s Journal:


This is a very mild, melting winter day, but clear and bright, yet I see the blue shadows on the snow at Walden. The snow lies very level there, about ten inches deep, and for the most part bears me as I go across with my hatchet. I think I never saw a more elysian blue than my shadow. I am turned into a tall blue Persian from my cap to my boots, such as no mortal dye can produce, with an amethystine hatchet in my hand. I am in rapture at my own shadow. What if the substance were of as ethereal a nature?



That wonderful frostwork of the 13th and 14th was too rare to be neglected….Take the most rigid tree, the whole effect is peculiarly soft and spirit-like…Every man’s wood-lot was a miracle and surprise to him….


January 17, 1852

 in Thoreau’s Journal:

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As the skies appear to a man, so is his mind…. The world runs to see the panorama, while there is panorama in the sky which few go out to see.

January 16, 1859

 in Thoreau’s Journal:  


…every twig and trunk and blade of withered sedge is thus covered or cased with ice, and accordingly…when you go facing the sun, the hollows look like a glittering shield set round with brilliants…

January 14, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Here is a dense mass of dry tansy stems, attached still to the same roots which sustained them in summer—but what an interval between these & those. Here are no yellow disks—here are no green leaves—here is no strong odor to remind some of funerals— Here is a change as great as can well be imagined. Bare brown scentless stalks with the dry heads still adhering—color—scent—& flavor—gone.


We are related to all nature, animate & inanimate, and accordingly we share to some extent the nature of the dormant creatures. We all feel somewhat confined by the winter—the nights are longer & we sleep more. We also wear more clothes. Yet the thought is not less active—perhaps it is more so.

January 13, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Here I am on the Cliffs at half-past three or four o’clock. The snow more than a foot deep over all the land.


Few if any, leave the beaten paths. A few clouds are floating overhead, downy and dark. Clear sky and bright sun….

January 12, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a very beautiful and spotless snow now, it having just ceased falling.  You are struck by its peculiar tractlessness, as if it were a thick white blanket just spread.


As it were, each snow-flake lies as it first fell, or there is a regular gradation from the denser bottom up to the surface which is perfectly light, and as it were fringed with the last flakes that fell.