January 27, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

To Hill and beyond. It is so mild & moist as I saunter along by the wall and E of the hill. That I remember or anticipate one of those warm rain storms in the spring, when the earth is just laid bare—the wind is South—& the Kladonia lichens are swollen and lusty with moisture—your foot sinking into them & pressing the water out as from a sponge—& the sandy places also are drinking it in. You wander indefinitely in a beaded coat—wet to the skin of your legs—sit on moss-clad rocks & stumps & hear the lisping of migrating sparrows—flitting amid the shrub oaks—sit hours at a time still & hone your thoughts. A rain which is as serene as fair weather—suggesting fairer weather than was ever seen— You could hug the clods that defile you. You feel the fertilizing influence of the rain in your mind. The part of you that is wettest is fullest of life, like the lichens. You discover evidences of immortality not known to divines. You cease to die—You detect some buds and sprouts of life—every step in the old rye field is on virgin soil.


And then the rain comes thicker & faster than before—thawing the remaining part of the ground—detaining the migrating bird,—& you turn your back to it—full of serene, contented thought—soothed by the steady dropping on the withered leaves—more at home for being abroad—more comfortable for being wet—sinking at each step deep into the thawing earth—gladly breaking through the gray rotting ice the dullest sounds seem sweetly modulated by the air— You leave your tracks in fields of spring rye—scaring the fox-colored sparrows along the woodside. —You cannot go home yet you stay and sit in the rain. You glide along the distant woodside—full of joy and expectation—seeing nothing but beauty—hearing nothing but music—as free as the fox-colored sparrow—seeing far ahead—a courageous height—a great philosopher—not indebted to any academy or college for this expansion—but chiefly to the April rain which descendeth on all alike.

Not encouraged by men in your walks not by the divines—not the professors—and to the law giver an outlaw. Not encouraged even when you are reminded of the government at Washington.


Time never passes so quickly & unaccountably as when I am engaged in composition, i.e., in writing down my thoughts. Clocks seem to have been put forward.

The ground being bare this winter I attend less to buds & twigs. Snow covering the ground secures our attention tot twigs &c which rise above it.

I notice a pretty large rock on the Lee Farm near the site of the old mill over the Assabet which is quite white & bare with the roots of maple cut down a few years ago, spreading over it—& a thin dark green crust or mould—a mere patch of soil a big as a dollar in one or 2 places on it— It is evident that the rock was covered as much as 3 riches deep with soil—a few years since for the old roots are 2 inches thick & that it has been burnt & washed off since—leaving the surface bare & white— There are a few lichens started at one end.

As I came home day before yesterday over the RR causeway—at sunset—the sky was over cast—but beneath the edge of the cloud far in the west was narrow stripe of clear amber sky coextensive with the horizon—which reached no higher than the top of Wachusett. I wished to know how far off the cloud was by comparing it with the mts. It had somewhat the appearance of setting on the mt concealing a part of its summit— I did not suppose it did—because the clouds over my head were too high for that—but when I turned my head I saw the whole out-line of the mts distinctly. I could not tell how far the edge of the cloud was beyond it—but I think it likely that the amber light came to me through a low narrow sky-light the upper sash of whose frame was 40 miles distant.

The amount of it is that I saw a cloud more distant than the mt.

Steadily the elemental rain falls—drip drip drip—the mist drives & clears your sight— The wind blows & warms you—sitting on that sandy upland by the edge of the wood—that April day.

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