There are a few inches of light snow on top of the little, hard and crusted, that I walked on here last, above the snow ice. The old tracks are blotted out, and new and fresher ones are to be discerned. It is a tabula rasa. These fresh falls of snow are like turning over a new leaf of Nature’s Album. At first you detect no track of beast or bird, and Nature looks more than commonly silent and blank. You doubt if anything has been abroad, though the snow fell three days ago, but ere long the track of a squirrel is seen making to or from the base of a tree, or the hole where he dug for acorns, and the shells he dropped on the snow around that stump.
Of all strange and unaccountable-things this journalising is the strangest, it will allow nothing to be predicated of it; its good is not good, nor its bad bad. If I make a huge effort to expose my innermost and richest wares to light, my counter seems cluttered with the meanest homemade stuffs, but after months or years, I may discover the wealth of India, and whatever rarity is brought overland from Cathay, in that confused heap, and what perhaps seemed a festoon of dried apple or pumpkin, will prove a string of Brazilian diamonds, or pearls from Coromandel.
Men lie behind the barrier of a relation as effectually concealed as the landscape by a mist; and when at length some unforeseen accident throws me into a new attitude toward them, I am astounded, as if for the first time I saw the sun on the hill-side.— They lie out before me like a new order of things.— As when the master meets his pupil as a man.— Then first do we stand under the same heavens—and master and pupil alike go down the resistless ocean stream together.
Perhaps I can never find so good a setting for my thoughts as I shall thus have taken them out of. The crystal never sparkles more brightly than in the cavern. The world have always loved best the fable with the moral. The children could read the fable alone, the grown-up read both. The truth so told has the best advantages of the most abstract statement, for it is not the less universally applicable. Where else will you ever find the true cement for your thoughts? How will you ever rivet them together without leaving the marks of the file? Yet Plutarch did not so; Montaigne did not so. Men have written travels in this form, but perhaps no man’s daily life has been rich enough to be journalized.
The snow falls on no two trees alike, but the forms it assumes are as various as those of the twigs and leaves which receive it. They are, as it were, predetermined by the genius of the tree. So one divine spirit descends alike on all, but bears a peculiar fruit in each. The divinity subsides on all men, as the snowflakes settle on the fields and ledges and takes the form of the various clefts and surfaces on which it lodges.
There are from time to time mornings, both in summer and winter, when especially the world seems to begin anew, beyond which memory need not go, for not behind them is yesterday and our past life; when, as in the morning of a hoar frost, there are visible the effects of a certain creative energy, the world has visibly been recreated in the night. Mornings of creation, I call them. In the midst of these marks of a creative energy recently active, while the sun is rising with more than usual splendor, I look back — I look back for the era of this creation, not into the night, but to a dawn for which no man ever rose early enough. A morning which carries us back beyond the Mosaic creation, where crystallizations are fresh and unmelted. It is the poet’s hour. Mornings when men are new-born, men who have the seeds of life in them. It should be a part of my religion to be abroad then.
The snow has been for some time more than a foot deep on a level, and some roads drifted quite full; and the cold for some weeks has been intense, as low as twenty and twenty-one degrees in the e’arly morning. A Canadian winter. Some say that we have not had so long a spell of cold weather since ’31, when they say it was not seen to thaw for six weeks. But last night and to-day the weather has moderated. It is glorious to be abroad this afternoon. The snow melts on the surface. The warmth of the sun reminds me of summer. The dog runs before us on the railroad causeway and appears to enjoy it as much as ourselves.
A journal is a record of experiences & growth–not a preserve of things well done or said. I am occasionally reminded of a statement which I have made in conversation & immediately forgotten–which would read much better than what I put in my journal. It is a ripe dry fruit of long past experience which falls from me easily without giving pain or pleasure– The charm of the journal must consist in a certain greenness–though freshness–& not in maturity. Here I cannot afford to be remembering what I said or did–my scurf cast off–but what I am & aspire to become.
What is it that I see from one mile to two miles distant in the horizon on all sides from my window, but the woods, which still, almost without exception, encircle our New England towns. They still bound almost every view. They have been driven off only so far. Where still wild creatures haunt. How long will these last? Is this a universal and permanent feature? Have the oldest countries retained it? Is it not an interesting and important question whether these are decreasing or not? Look out what window I will, my eyes rest in the distance on a forest! Is this fact of no significance? Is this circumstance of no value ? Why such pains in old countries to plant gardens and parks? A certain sample of wild nature, a certain primitiveness.
The sky has gradually become overcast & now it is just beginning to snow—looking against a dark roof—I detect a single flake from time to time—but when I look at the dark side of the woods 2 miles off in the horizon there already is seen a slight thickness or mistiness in the air—In this way, perhaps, may it first be detected…..Pines & oaks seen at a distance—say 2 miles off—are considerably blended & make one harmonious impression—the former if you attend—are seen to be of a blue or misty black—and the latter form commonly a reddish brown ground, out of which the former rise—These colors are no longer in strong contrast with each other—
In many instances the snow had lodged on trees yesterday in just such forms as a white napkin or counterpane dropped on them would take—protuberant in the middle with many fold & dimples— An ordinary leafless bush supported so much snow on its twigs—a perfect maze like a whirligig—though not in one solid mass—that you could not see through it— We heard only a few chic-a-dees. Some times the snow on the bent P. Pines made me think of rams’ or elephants’ heads ready to butt you.
In particular places standing on their snowiest side the woods were incredibly fair—white as alabaster—indeed the young pines reminded you of the purest statuary. & the stately full grown ones towering around affected you as if you stood in a Titanic sculptor’s studio. So purely & delicately white—transmitting the light—their dark trunks all concealed. And in many places where the snow lay on withered oak leaves between you & the light—various delicate fawn coloured & cinnamon tints blending with the white still enhanced the beauty.
How new all things seem! Here is a broad, shallow pool in the fields which yesterday was slush, now converted into a soft, white fleecy snow ice…It is like the beginning of the world. There is nothing hackneyed where a new snow can come and cover all the landscape…The world is not only new to the eye, but is still as at creation. Every blade and leaf is hushed, not a bird or insect is heard, only, perchance, a faint tinkling sleigh-bell in the distance…The snow still adheres conspicuously to the N.W. sides of the stems of the trees, quite up to their summits, with a remarkably sharp edge in that direction…It would be about as good as a compass to steer by in a cloudy day or by night…I doubt if I can convey an idea of the appearance of the woods yesterday. As you stood in their midst, and looked round on their boughs and twigs laden with snow, it seemed as if there could be none left to reach the ground. These countless zigzag white arms crossing each other at every possible angle completely closed up the view like a light drift within three or four rods on every side, the wintriest prospect imaginable. That snow which sifted down into the wood paths was much drier and lighter than elsewhere.
Take the most rigid tree, the whole effect is peculiarly soft and spirit-like, for there is no marked edge or outline. How could you draw the outline of these snowy fingers seen against the fog, without exaggeration? There is no more a boundary-line or circumference that can be drawn, than a diameter. Hardly could the New England farmer drive to market under these trees without feeling that his sense of beauty was addressed. He would be aware that the phenomenon called beauty was become visible, if one were at leisure or had had the right culture to appreciate it. A miller with whom I rode actually remarked on the beauty of the trees; and a farmer told me in all sincerity that, having occasion to go into Walden Woods in his sleigh, he thought he never saw anything so beautiful in all his life, and if there had been men there who knew how to write about it, it would have been a great occasion for them.
The endless variety in the forms and texture of the clouds! —some fine, some coarse grained. I saw tonight overhead, stretching two thirds across the sky, what looked like the backbone, with portions of the ribs, of a fossil monster. Every form and creature is thus shadowed forth in vapor in the heavens.
…every twig and trunk and blade of withered sedge is thus covered or cased with ice, and accordingly…when you go facing the sun, the hollows look like a glittering shield set round with brilliants…
The snow which 3 quarters conceals the cassandra—in these ponds—& every twig & trunk & blade of withered sedge is thus covered or cased with ice— and accordingly, as I have said, when you go facing the sun, the hollows look like a glittering shield set round with brilliants. That bent sedge in the midst of the shield—each particular blade of it being married to an icy wire 20 times its size at least shines like polished silver rings or semicircles— It must have been far more splendid here yesterday before any of the ice fell off—
This forenoon I walk up the Assabet to see it. The hemlocks are perhaps a richer sight than any tree. –– such Christmas trees, thus, sugared, as were never seen. On one side you see more or less greenness, but when you stand due north they are unexpectedly white and rich, so beautifully still, and then you look under them you see some great rock, or rocks, all hoary with the same, and a finer frost on the very fine dead hemlock twigs there and on hanging roots and twigs, quite like the cobwebs in a grist-mill covered with meal, –– and it implies a stillness like that; or it is like the lightest down glued on.
In our workshops we pride ourselves on discovering a use for what had previously been regarded as waste, but how partial and accidental our economy compared with Nature’s. In Nature nothing is wasted. Every decayed leaf and twig and fibre is only the better fitted to serve in some other department, and all at last are gathered in her compost-heap.
It is a very beautiful and spotless snow now, it having just ceased falling. You are struck by its peculiar tractlessness, as if it were a thick white blanket just spread. As it were, each snow-flake lies as it first fell, or there is a regular gradation from the denser bottom up to the surface which is perfectly light, and as it were fringed with the last flakes that fell.