May 11, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

White birches are suddenly leafing in some places,

so as to make an open veil or gauze of green against the other trees.

May 10, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

He is the richest who has most use for nature as raw material of tropes and symbols with which to describe his life. If these gates of golden willows affect me, they correspond to the beauty and promise of some experience on which I am entering.

If I am overflowing with life, am rich in experience for which I lack expression, then nature will be my language full of poetry — all nature will fable, and every natural phenomenon be a myth. The man of science, who is not seeking for expression but for a fact to be expressed merely, studies nature as a dead language. I pray for such inward experience as will make nature significant.

May 8, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is wonderful what a variety of flowers may grow within the range of a walk & how long some very conspicuous ones may escape the most diligent walker—If you do not chance to visit their localities the right week or fortnight––when their signs are out. 

May 7, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

When I hear a bird singing I cannot think of any words that will imitate it—

What word can stand in place of a bird’s note!

May 6, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

—To epigaea via Clamshell Hill. There is no such thing as pure objective observation.  Your observation, to be interesting, i. e. to be significant, must be subjective. The sum of what the writer of whatever class has to report is simply some human experience, whether he be poet or philosopher or man of science. The man of most science is the man most alive, whose life is the greatest event. Senses that take cognizance of outward things merely are of no avail. It matters not where or how far you travel, —the farther commonly the worse, —but how much alive you are. If it is possible to conceive of an event outside to humanity, it is not of the slightest significance, though it were the explosion of a planet. Every important worker will report what life there is in him. It makes no odds into what seeming deserts the poet is born. Though all his neighbors pronounce it a Sahara, it will be a paradise to him; for the desert which we see is the result of the barrenness of our experience. No mere willful activity whatever, whether in writing verses or collecting statistics, will produce true poetry or science. If you are really a sick man, it is indeed to be regretted, for you cannot accomplish so much as if you were well. All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love, ––to sing; and if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. I look over the report of the doings of a scientific association and am surprised that there is so little life to be reported; I am put off with a parcel of dry technical terms. Anything living is easily and naturally expressed in popular language. I cannot help suspecting that the life of these learned professors has been almost as inhuman and wooden as a rain-gauge or self-registering magnetic machine. They communicate no fact which rises to the temperature of blood-heat. It doesn’t all amount to one rhyme.

May 5, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

[From a list noted in the Journal on May 24, 1854]

Elder, longest shoots of any, in some places (May 5).

[Photo:  May 4, 2021]

May 4, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Crossing that first Conantum field, I perceive a peculiar fragrance in the air (not the meadow fragrance), like that of vernal flowers or of expanding buds. The ground is covered with the mouse-ear in full bloom, and it may be that in part. It is a temperate southwest breeze, and this is a scent as of willows (flowers and leafets), bluets, violets, shad-bush, mouse-ear, etc., combined; or perhaps the last chiefly; at any rate it is very perceptible. The air is more genial, laden with the fragrance of spring flowers.

I, sailing in the spring ocean, getting in from my winter voyage, begin to smell the land. Such a scent perceived by a mariner would be very exciting. I not only smell the land breeze, but I perceive in it the fragrance of spring flowers. I draw near to the land; I begin to lie down and stretch myself on it. After my winter voyage I begin to smell the land.

May 3, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Looking from the Cliff, now, about 6 a. m., the landscape is as if seen in a mirage, the Cliff being in shadow, and that in the fresh and dewy sunshine (not much dew yet). Cool sunlight. The landscape lies in a fresh morning light; the earth and water smell fresh and new; the water is marked by a few smooth streaks. The atmosphere suits the grayish-brown landscape, — the still ashy maple swamps and now nearly bare shrub oaks. The white pine, left here and there over the sprout-land, is never more beautiful than with the morning light ––the early sunlight and the dew ––on it. (Dew comes with grass? and for it?)  Before the water is rippled and morning song of the birds is quenched.