December 14, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

As for the weather, all seasons are pretty much alike to one who is actively at work in the woods. I should say that there were two or three remarkably warm days, and as many cold ones in the course of the year, but the rest are all alike in respect to temperature. This is my answer to my acquaintances, who ask if I have not found it very cold being out all day….

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There are certain places where the ice will always be open, where, perchance, warmer springs come in. There are such places in every character, genial and open in the coldest seasons.

December 13

1851 in Thoreau’s Journal:

Walk early through the woods to Lincoln to survey. Winter weather may be said to have begun yesterday. Why have I ever omitted early rising and a morning walk?

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1852 in Thoreau’s Journal:

While surveying today saw much Mt Laurel for this neighborhood in Mason’s pasture—just over the line in Carlisle.  Its bright yellowish green shoots are agreeable to my eye. We had one hour of almost Indian summer weather in the middle of the day. I felt the influence of the sun— It melted my stoniness a little. The pines looked like old friends again. Cutting a path through a swamp where was much brittle dogwood &c &c I wanted to know the name of every shrub. This varied employment to which my necessities compel me serves instead of foreign travel & the lapse of time— If it makes me forget somethings which I ought to remember, it no doubt enables me to forget many things which it is well to forget. By stepping aside from my chosen path so often I see myself better and am enabled to criticize myself. Of this nature is the only true lapse of time. It seems an age since I took walks & wrote in my journal— And when shall I revisit the glimpses of the moon? To be able to see ourselves—not merely as others see us—but as we are—that service a variety of absorbing employments does us.

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December 11, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The winter with its snow and ice is not an evil to be corrected…..To perceive freshly, with fresh senses, is to be inspired.  Great winter itself looked like a precious gem reflecting rainbow colors from one angle. My body is all sentient. As I go here or there, I am tickled by this or that I come into contact with, as if I touched the wires of a battery. I can generally recall, have fresh in my mind, several scratches last received. These I continually recall to mind, reimpress and harp upon.

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The age of miracles is each moment thus returned; now it is wild apples, now river reflections, now a flock of lesser red-polls. In winter, too, resides immortal youth and perennial summer….What if we could daguerreotype our thoughts and feelings ! 

December 10, 1840

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

I discover a strange track in the snow, and learn that some migrating otter has made across from the river to the wood, by my yard and the smith’s shop, in the silence of the night. I cannot but smile at my own wealth when I am thus reminded that every chink and cranny of nature is full to overflowing. Such an incident as this startles me with the assurance that the primeval nature is still working, and makes tracks in the snow. It is my own fault that he must thus skulk across my premises by night. Now I yearn toward him, and heaven to me consists in a complete communion with the otter nature. He travels a more wooded path by watercourses and hedgerows, I by the highways, but though his tracks are now crosswise to mine, our courses are not divergent, but we shall meet at last.

December 9, 1859

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

How prominent the late or fall flowers are, now withered above the snow, —the goldenrods and asters, Roman wormwood, etc., etc.! These late ones have a sort of life extended into winter, hung with icy jewelry.

December 8, 1850

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It snowed in the night of the 6th and the ground is now covered.  our first snow 2 inches deep  A week ago I saw cows being driven home from pasture—  Now they are kept at home. Here’s an end to their grazing. The farmer improves this first light snow to accomplish some pressing jobs—to move some particular rocks on a drag, or the like—  I perceive how quickly he has seized the opportunity.  I see no tracks now of cows or men or boys beyond the edge of the wood—suddenly they are shut up—the remote pastures & hills beyond the woods are now closed to cows & cowherds aye & to cowards  I am struck by this sudden solitude & remoteness which these places have acquired. 

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The dear privacy & retirement & solitude which winter makes possible—carpeting the earth with snow, furnishing more than woolen feet to all walkers, crounching the snow only.  From Fair Haven I see the hills & fields aye & the icy woods in the Corner shine gleam with the dear old wintery sheen.  

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December 6, 1858

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

Go out at 9 AM to see the glaze. It is already half fallen, melting off. The dripping trees and wet falling ice will wet you through like rain in the woods. It is a lively sound, a busy tinkling, the incessant brattling and from time to time rushing, crashing sound of this falling ice, and trees suddenly erecting themselves when relieved of their loads. It is now perfect only on the north sides of woods which the sun has not touched or affected. Looking at a dripping tree between you and the sun, you may see here or there one or another rainbow color, a small brilliant point of light.

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December 5, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Rather hard walking in the snow— There is a slight mist in the air—& accordingly some glaze on the twigs & leaves—& thus suddenly we have passed from Ind. summer to winter.  The perfect silence, as if the whispering & creaking earth were muffled–– the stillness of the twigs & of the very weeds & withered grasses as if they were sculpted out of marble—are striking. It is as if you had stept from the withered garden into the yard of a sculptor or worker in marble crowded with delicate works—rich & rare. I remark, half a mile off, a tall & slender pitch pine against the dull grey mist—peculiarly monumental. I noticed also several small white oak trees full of leaves by the road—strangely interesting & beautiful. Their stiffened leaves were very long and deeply cut, & the lighter & glazed underside being almost uniformly turned vertically toward the N.W. as a traveller turns his back to the storm—though enough of the redder & warmer sides were seen to contrast with them—it looked like an artificial tree hung with many-fingered gauntlets. — — — — Such was the disposition of the leaves often in the same plane, that it looked like a brown arbor vitae.

See 4 quails running across the turnpike. How they must be affected by this change from warm weather & bare ground to cold & universal snow!

Returning from the P.O. at early candle light, I noticed for the first time this season the peculiar effect of lights in offices & shops seen over the snowy street—suggesting how withdrawn & inward the life in the former—how exposed & outward in the latter.

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December 4, 1840

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Methinks I have experienced a joy sometimes like that which yonder tree for so long, has budded and blossomed—and reflected the green rays.  

The opposite shore of the pond seen through the haze of a September afternoon, as it lies stretched out in grey content, answers to some streak in me. 

I love to look aslant up the tree tops from some dell, and finally rest myself in the blueish mistiness of the white pines.

Many’s the pine I know—that’s a greybeard and wears a cocked hat.

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December 3, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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Look at the trees bare or rustling with sere brown leaves—except the evergreens—their buds dormant at the foot of the leaf-stalks. Look at the fields russet & withered—& the various sedges & weeds with dry bleached culms— Such is our relation to nature at the present, —such plants are we. We have no more sap—nor verdure—nor color now—

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

December 2

1854 in Thoreau’s Journal:

Got up my boat and housed it, ice having formed about it.

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1856 in Thoreau’s Journal:

Pm Got in my boat, which before I had got out & turned up on the bank. It made me sweat to wheel it home through the snow, I am so unused to the work of late.

1858 in Thoreau’s Journal:

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When I first saw that snow-cloud—it stretched low along the N.W. horizon—perhaps 4/4 round—& half a dozen times as high as the mts—& was remarkably horizontal on its upper edge—but that edge was obviously for a part of the way very thick—composed of dusky mist which first suggested snow— When soon after it had risen & advanced & was plainly snowing— It was as if some great dark machine was sifting the snow upon the mountains. There was at the same time the most brilliant of sun-sets—the clearest & crispiest of winter skies.— We have had every day since similar slight flurries of snow— we being in their midst.

December 1, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

We are wont to foolishly to think that the creed a man professes is more significant than the fact he is….

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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–