in Thoreau’s Journal:
After snow, rain, and hail yesterday and last night, we have this morning quite a glaze, there being at last an inch or two of crusted snow on the ground, the most we have had. The sun comes out at 9 a. m. and lights up the ice-incrusted trees, but it is pretty warm and the ice rapidly melts.
I go to Walden via the almshouse and up the railroad. Trees seen in the west against the dark cloud, the sun shining on them, are perfectly white as frostwork, and their outlines very perfectly and distinctly revealed, great wisps that they are and ghosts of trees, with recurved twigs. The walls and fences are encased, and the fields bristle with a myriad of crystal spears. Already the wind is rising and a brattling is heard overhead in the street. The sun, shining down a gorge over the woods at Brister’s Hill, reveals a wonderfully brilliant as well as seemingly solid and diversified region in the air. The ice is from an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick about the twigs and pine-needles, only half as thick commonly on one side. Their heads are bowed; their plumes and needles are stiff, as if preserved under glass for the inspection of posterity.
Thus is our now especially slow-footed river laid up not merely on the meadows, but on the twigs and leaves of the trees, on the needles of the pines. The pines thus weighed down are sharp-pointed at top and remind me of firs and even hemlocks, their drooping boughs being wrapped about them like the folds of a cloak or a shawl.
The crust is already strewn with bits of the green needles which have been broken off. Frequently the whole top stands up bare, while the middle and lower branches are drooping and massed together, resting on one another.
But the low and spreading weeds in the fields and the wood-paths are the most interesting. Here are asters, savory-leaved, whose flat imbricated calyxes, three quarters of an inch over, are surmounted and inclosed in a perfectly transparent ice button, like a glass knob, through which you see the reflections of the brown calyx. These are very common. Each little blue-curls calyx has a spherical button like those brass ones on little boys’ jackets, —little sprigs on them, —and the pennyroyal has still smaller spheres, more regularly arranged about its stem, chandelier-wise, and still smells through the ice. The finest grasses support the most wonderful burdens of ice and most branched on their minute threads. These weeds are spread and arched over into the snow again, — countless little arches a few inches high, each cased in ice, which you break with a tinkling crash at each step.
The scarlet fruit of the cockspur lichen, seen glowing through the more opaque whitish or snowy crust of a stump, is, on close inspection, the richest sight of all, for the scarlet is increased and multiplied by reflection through the bubbles and hemispherical surfaces of the crust, as if it covered some vermilion grain thickly strewn. And the brown cup lichens stand in their midst. The whole rough bark, too, is encased.
Already a squirrel has perforated the crust above the mouth of his burrow, here and there by the side of the path, and left some empty acorn shells on the snow. He has shovelled out this morning before the snow was frozen on his door-step.
Now, at 10 a. m., there blows a very strong wind from the northwest, and it grows cold apace.
Particularly are we attracted in the winter by greenness and signs of growth, as the green and white shoots of grass and weeds, pulled or floating on the water, and also by color, as cockspur lichens and crimson birds, etc.
Thorny bushes look more thorny than ever; each thorn is prolonged and exaggerated.
Some boys have come out to a wood-side hill to coast. It must be sport to them, lying on their stomachs, to hear their sled cronching the crystalled weeds when they have reached the more weedy pasture below.
4 p. m. — Up railroad.
Since the sun has risen higher and fairly triumphed over the clouds, the ice has glistened with all the prismatic hues. On the trees it is now considerably dissipated, but rather owing to the wind than the sun. The ice is chiefly on the upper and on the storm side of twigs, etc. The whole top of the pine forest, as seen miles off in the horizon, is of sharp points, the leading shoots with a few plumes, even more so than I have drawn on the last page but one.
It has grown cold, and the crust bears. The weeds and grasses, being so thickened by this coat of ice, appear much more numerous in the fields. It is surprising what a bristling crop they are. The sun is gone before five. Just before I looked for rainbow flocks in the west, but saw none, —only some small pink-dun(?)clouds. In the east still larger ones,which after sunset turned to pale slate.
In a true history or biography, of how little consequence those events of which so much is commonly made ! For example, how difficult for a man to remember in what towns or houses he has lived, or when Yet one of the first steps of his biographer will be to establish these facts, and he will thus give an undue importance to many of them. I find in my Journal that the most important events in my life, if recorded at all, are not dated.