March 16, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A new phase of the spring is presented, a new season has come…we no longer see dripping, saturated russet and brown banks through rain, hearing at intervals the alarm notes of early robins, banks which reflect a yellowish light, but we see the bare and now pale-brown and dry russet hills. The earth has cast off her white coat and come forth in her clean-washed, sober russet, early spring dress. As we look over the lively tossing blue waves for a mile or more eastward and westward our eyes fall on these shining russet hills and Ball’s Hill appears in this strong light at the verge of this undulating blue plain, like some glorious newly created island of the spring, just sprung up from the bottom in the midst of the blue waters. The fawn-colored oak leaves, with a few pines intermixed, thickly covering the hill, look not like a withered vegetation, but an ethereal kind, just expanded and peculiarly adapted to the season and the sky.

Look toward the sun, the water is yellow, as water in which the earth has just washed itself clean of its winter impurities; look from the sun and it is a beautiful dark blue ; but in each direction the crests of the waves are white, and you cannot sail or row over this watery wilderness without sharing the excitement of this element. Our sail draws so strongly that we cut through the great waves without feeling them. And all around, half a mile or a mile distant, looking over this blue foreground, I see the bare and peculiarly neat, clean-washed, and bright russet hills reflecting the bright light (after the storm of yesterday) from an infinite number of dry blades of withered grass. The russet surfaces have now, as it were, a combed look, — combed by the rain. And the leather-color of withered oak leaves covering Ball’s Hill, seen a mile or two off in the strong light, with a few pines intermixed, as if it were an island rising out of this blue sea in the horizon. This sight affects me as if it were visible at this season only. What with the clear air and the blue water and the sight of the pure dry withered leaves, that distant hill affects me as something altogether ethereal.