January 4, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

[This citation is taken from the Princeton Transcripts of the to be published 1858 Journal.  I’m supposing that Thoreau took down the first three paragraphs as “field notes” and then set about polishing the singular event of the light on the stubble.  Perhaps this passage shows us something of one of Thoreau’s working methods?]

The pm weather still remarkably warm— The ice too soft for skiing— I go through by the Andromeda Ponds & down river from Fair Haven— I am encouraged by the sight of men fishing on the F.H. Pond—for it reminds me that they have animal spirits for such adventures— I am glad to be reminded that any go a-fishing. When I get down near to Cardinal shore the sun near setting, its light is wonderfully reflected from a narrow edging of yellowish stubble—at the edge of the meadow ice & part of the hill—an edging only 2 or 3 feet wide—& the stubble but a few inches high—

I am looking East— It is remarkable—because the ice is but a dull lead color (It is so soft & sodden) reflecting no light—& the hill beyond is a dark russet here & there patched with snow—but this warm intermediate line of stubble is all aglow— I get its true color & brightness best when I do not look directly at it, but a little above it toward the hills seeing it with the lower part of eye more truly and abstractly. It is as if all the rays slid over the ice & lodged against & were reflected by the stubble. It is surprising how much sun light a little straw that survives the winter will reflect—

The channel of the river is open part of the way— The corpus sericea & some young willow shoots are the red-barked twigs so conspicuous now along the river sides—


That bright & warm reflection of sunlight from the insignificant edging of stubble was remarkable— I was coming down stream over the meadow, on the ice within 4 or 5 rods of the eastern shore— The sun on my left was about a quarter of an hour above the horizon— The ice was soft & sodden—of a dull lead color—quite dark & reflecting no light as I looked eastward—but my eyes caught by accident a singular sunny brightness—reflected from the narrow border of stubble only 3 or 4 inches high (and as many feet wide perhaps) which rose along the edge of the ice at the foot of the hill. It was not a mere brightening of the bleached stubble—but the warm & yellow light of the sun, which, it appeared, it was peculiarly fitted to reflect— It was that amber light from the west which we sometimes witness after a storm—concentrated on this stubble—for the hill beyond was merely a dark russet spotted with snow— All the yellow rays seems to be reflected by this insignificant stubble alone—& when I looked more generally a little above it—seeing it with the under part of my eye—it appeared yet more truly & more bright— The reflected light made its due impression on the eye separated from the proper color of the stubble— —& it glowed almost like a low—steady & serene fire. It was precisely as if the sun light had mechanically slid over the thin ice & lodged against the stubble— — It will be enough to say of something warmly & sunnily bright that it glowed like lit stubble. It was remarkable that, looking eastward this was the only evidence of the light in the west.