Surely the ice is a great & absorbing phenomenon– Consider how much of the surface of the town it occupies– How much attention it monopolizes! We do not commonly distinguish more than one kind of water in the river–but what various kinds of ice there are!
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.
Our life should be so active and progressive as to be a journey. Our meals should all be of journey-cake and hasty pudding. We should be more alert, see the sun rise, not keep fashionable hours, enter a house, our own house, as a khan, a caravansary. At noon I did not dine; I ate my journey-cake. I quenched my thirst at a spring or a brook. As I sat at the table, the hospitality was so perfect and the repast so sumptuous that I seemed to be breaking my fast upon a bank in the midst of an arduous journey, that the water seemed to be a living spring, the napkins grass, the conversation free as the winds; and the servants that waited on us were our simple desires.
When you think that your walk is profitless and a failure, and you can hardly persuade yourself not to return, it is on the point of being a success, for then you are in that subdued and knocking mood to which Nature never fails to open.
A tree seen against other trees is a mere dark mass, but against the sky it has parts, has symmetry and expansion…
The thousand fine points & tops of the trees delight me—they are the plumes & standards & bayonets of a host that march to victory over the earth. The trees are handsome towards the heavens—as well as up their boles—they are good for other things than boards & shingles…
What a rich book might be made about buds, including perhaps, sprouts. The impregnable, vivacious willow catkins, but half asleep along the twigs, under the armor of their black scales, the birch and oak sprouts, the rank and lusty dogwood sprouts, the sound, red buds of the blueberry, the small pointed red buds, close to the twig, of the panicled andromeda, the large yellowish buds of the swamp pink, etc. How healthy and vivacious must he be who would treat of these things.
The river is broadly open, as usual this winter. You can hardly say that we have had any sleighing at all this winter, though five or six inches of snow lay on the ground five days after January 6th. But I do not quite like this warm weather and bare ground at this season. What is a winter without snow and ice in this latitude? The bare earth is unsightly. This winter is but unburied summer.
To insure health a man’s relation to nature—must come very near to a personal one—he must be conscious of a friendliness in her—when human friends part or die she must stand in the gap to him. I cannot conceive of any life which deserves the name, unless there is a certain tender relation to nature— This it is which makes winter warm—& supplies society in the desert & wilderness— Unless nature sympathizes with & speaks to us, as it were, the most fertile & blossoming regions are barren & dreary…
Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor. Even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveler….It was as if some superincumbent stratum of the earth had been removed in the night, exposing to light a bed of untarnished crystals. The scene changed at every step, or as the head was inclined to the right or to the left….Such is beauty ever, neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire.
I do not know but it is too much to read one newspaper in a week, for I now take the weekly Tribune, and for a few days past, it seems to me, I have not dwelt in Concord; the sun, the clouds, the snow, the trees say not so much to me. You cannot serve two masters. It requires more than a day’s devotion to know and to possess the wealth of a day.
To read of things distant and sounding betrays us into slighting these which are then apparently near and small. We learn to look abroad for our mind and spirit’s daily nutriment, and what is this dull town to me? what are these plain fields and the aspects of this earth and these skies? All summer and far into the fall I unconsciously went by the newspapers and the news, and now I find it was because the morning and the evening were full of news to me. My walks were full of incidents. I attended not to the affairs of Europe, but to my own affairs in Concord fields.
A snow-storm with very high wind all last night and to-day. Though not much snow falls (perhaps seven or eight inches), it is exceedingly drifted, so that the first train gets down about noon and none gets up till about 6 p. m.! There is no vehicle passing the house before 2 p. m.! A fine dry snow, intolerable to face.
The temperature of the air and the clearness or serenity of the sky are indispensable to a knowledge of a day, so entirely do we sympathize with the moods of nature. It is important to know of a day that is past whether it was warm or cold, clear or cloudy, calm or windy, etc.
They are very different seasons in the winter when the ice of the river and meadows and ponds is bare, — blue or green, a vast glittering crystal, —and when it is all covered with snow or slosh; and our moods correspond. The former may be called a crystalline winter.
Why so much (five and one half inches) more now in the woods than on the 12th, as compared with open fields ? Was the driving snow caught in a small wood, or did it settle less in the rain there, or since the snow on account of bushes ?
With this snow the fences are scarcely an obstruction to the traveller; he easily steps over them. Often they are buried. I suspect it is two and a half feet deep in Andromeda Swamps now. The snow is much deeper in yards, roads, and all small inclosures than in broad fields.
The fog turns to a fine rain at noon, and in that evening and night it produces a glaze, which this morning, —is quite handsome. Instead of that soft, white, faery-like mantle of down with which the trees were thickly powdered, they are now cased in a coat of mail, of icy mail, built out in many cases about as far from the twig with icy prominences. Birches, tree-tops, and especially slender-twigged willows or osiers are bent over by it, as they were not by the snow-white and light frost of yesterday and the day before, so that the character or expression of many trees and shrubs is wholly altered.
White walls of snow rest on the boughs of trees, in height two or three times their thickness. These white irregular arms give the forest a wintry and picturesque look at a distance. The evergreens, especially the pitch pine, often bear large irregular white burdens, agreeably diversified and loopholed by the interstices of the plumes. But it is only when fresh that this snow on the trees is beautiful. Already, before the storm is over, the surface of the snow in the high woods is full of indentations and hollows where some of this burden has fallen.
Here I am on the Cliffs at half-past three or four o’clock. The snow more than a foot deep over all the land. Few if any, leave the beaten paths. A few clouds are floating overhead, downy and dark. Clear sky and bright sun….
Perhaps what most moves us in winter is some reminiscence of far-off summer. How we leap by the side of the open brooks! What beauty in the running brooks! What life! What society! The cold is merely superficial; it is summer still at the core, far, far within.
It is in the cawing of the crow, the crowing of the cock, the warmth of the sun on our backs. I hear faintly the cawing of a crow far, far away, echoing from some unseen wood-side, as if deadened by the springlike vapor which the sun is drawing from the ground. It mingles with the slight murmur of the village, the sound of children at play, as one stream empties gently into another, and the wild and tame are one.
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