December 5, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Rather hard walking in the snow— There is a slight mist in the air—& accordingly some glaze on the twigs & leaves—& thus suddenly we have passed from Ind. summer to winter.  The perfect silence, as if the whispering & creaking earth were muffled–– the stillness of the twigs & of the very weeds & withered grasses as if they were sculpted out of marble—are striking. It is as if you had stept from the withered garden into the yard of a sculptor or worker in marble crowded with delicate works—rich & rare. I remark, half a mile off, a tall & slender pitch pine against the dull grey mist—peculiarly monumental. I noticed also several small white oak trees full of leaves by the road—strangely interesting & beautiful. Their stiffened leaves were very long and deeply cut, & the lighter & glazed underside being almost uniformly turned vertically toward the N.W. as a traveller turns his back to the storm—though enough of the redder & warmer sides were seen to contrast with them—it looked like an artificial tree hung with many-fingered gauntlets. — — — — Such was the disposition of the leaves often in the same plane, that it looked like a brown arbor vitae.

See 4 quails running across the turnpike. How they must be affected by this change from warm weather & bare ground to cold & universal snow!

Returning from the P.O. at early candle light, I noticed for the first time this season the peculiar effect of lights in offices & shops seen over the snowy street—suggesting how withdrawn & inward the life in the former—how exposed & outward in the latter.


December 4, 1840

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Methinks I have experienced a joy sometimes like that which yonder tree for so long, has budded and blossomed—and reflected the green rays.  

The opposite shore of the pond seen through the haze of a September afternoon, as it lies stretched out in grey content, answers to some streak in me. 

I love to look aslant up the tree tops from some dell, and finally rest myself in the blueish mistiness of the white pines.

Many’s the pine I know—that’s a greybeard and wears a cocked hat.


December 3, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:


Look at the trees bare or rustling with sere brown leaves—except the evergreens—their buds dormant at the foot of the leaf-stalks. Look at the fields russet & withered—& the various sedges & weeds with dry bleached culms— Such is our relation to nature at the present, —such plants are we. We have no more sap—nor verdure—nor color now—

….but even in winter we maintain a temperate cheer—& a serene inward life—not destitute of warmth & melody—  Only the cold evergreens wear the aspect of summer now and shelter the winter birds.

December 2

1854 in Thoreau’s Journal:

Got up my boat and housed it, ice having formed about it.


1856 in Thoreau’s Journal:

Pm Got in my boat, which before I had got out & turned up on the bank. It made me sweat to wheel it home through the snow, I am so unused to the work of late.

1858 in Thoreau’s Journal:


When I first saw that snow-cloud—it stretched low along the N.W. horizon—perhaps 4/4 round—& half a dozen times as high as the mts—& was remarkably horizontal on its upper edge—but that edge was obviously for a part of the way very thick—composed of dusky mist which first suggested snow— When soon after it had risen & advanced & was plainly snowing— It was as if some great dark machine was sifting the snow upon the mountains. There was at the same time the most brilliant of sun-sets—the clearest & crispiest of winter skies.— We have had every day since similar slight flurries of snow— we being in their midst.

December 1, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

We are wont to foolishly to think that the creed a man professes is more significant than the fact he is….


The dear wholesome color of shrub oak leaves—so clean & firm not decaying, but which have put on a kind of immortality—not wrinkled & thin like the white oak leaves—but full veined & plump as nearer earth—Well tanned leather on the one side–sun-tanned—color of colors—color of the cow and the deer—silver downy beneath turned toward the late bleached & russet fields—What are acanthus leaves & the rest to this?  Emblem of my winter condition. I love & could embrace the shrub oak with its scanty garment of leaves rising above the snow—lowly whispering to me–akin to winter thoughts & sunsets & to all virtue. Covert which the hare & partridge and I  seek. What cousin of mine is the shrub oak? How can any man suffer long?  For a sense of want is a prayer & all prayers are answered.— Rigid as iron–clean as the atmosphere—hardy as virtue—innocent & sweet as a maiden—is the shrub-oak. In proportion as I know & love it—I am natural & sound as a partridge. I felt a positive yearning toward one bush this afternoon. There was a match found for me at last— I fell in love with a shrub-oak. Tenacious of its leaves—which shrivel not but retain a certain wintry life in them—firm shields painted in fast colors—a rich brown– 

November 30, 1858


in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a pleasant day & the snow melting considerably….Though Walden is open— It is a perfect winter scene. This withdrawn but ample recess in the woods—with all that is necessary for a human residence—yet never referred to by the London Times & Galignani’s messenger—as some of those arctic bays are— some are hastening to Europe & some to the West Indies but here is a bay never steered for….

November 29, 1858


in Thoreau’s Journal:

About three inches of snow fell last night. How light and bright the day now; methinks it is was good as a half hour added to the day. White houses no longer stand out and stare in the landscape. The pine woods snowed up look more like the bare oak woods with their gray boughs. The river meadows show now far off a dull straw color or pale brown amid the general white, where the coarse sedge rises about the snow; and distant oak woods are now indistinctly reddish. It is a clear and pleasant winter day. The snow has taken all the November out of the sky. 

November 28, 1858


in Thoreau’s Journal:

A gray, overcast, still day, and more small birds, tree sparrows and chickadees, than usual about the house. There have been a very few fine snowflakes falling for many hours, and now, by 2 P.M., a regular snowstorm has commenced, fine flakes falling steadily, and rapidly whitening all the landscape. In half an hour the russet landscape is painted white, even to the horizon. Do we know of any other so silent and sudden a change?


I cannot now walk without leaving a track behind me. That is one peculiarity of winter walking. Anybody may follow my trail. I have walked, perhaps, a particular wild path along some swamp side all summer, and thought, to myself, I am the only villager that ever comes here. But I go out shortly after the first snow has fallen, and lo, here is the track of a sportsman and his dog in my secluded path, and probably he preceded me in the summer as well. But my hour is not his, and I may never meet him.

November 27, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Now a man will eat his heart if ever—now while the earth is bare barreen & cheerless—and we have the coldness of winter without the variety of ices & snow —but methinks the variety & compensation are in the stars now— How bright they are now by contrast with the dark earth! —The days are short enough now. The sun is already setting before I have reached the ordinary limit of my walk—but the 21st of next month the day will be shorter by about 25 minutes.

In December there will be less light than in any month in the year—

It is too cold today to use a paddle   the water freezes on the handle & numbs my fingers— I observe the Lycopodium lucidulum still of a free shining green—


Checquer berries & partridge berries are both numerous & obvious now—


November 25

in Thoreau’s Journal:


I feel a little alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit…This afternoon, late and cold as it is, has been a sort of Indian summer. Indeed, I think we have summer days from time to time the winter through, and that it is often the snow on the ground which makes the whole difference.


This afternoon the air was indescribably clear and exhilarating, and though the thermometer would have shown it to be cold, I thought there was a finer and purer warmth than in summer, a wholesome, intellectual warmth in which the body was warmed by the mind’s contentment, —the warmth hardly sensuous, but rather the satisfaction of existence.



I remember perhaps that 15 years ago there was not a single tree in this pasture– not a germinating seed—of one—& now it is a pretty dense forest 10 feet high— I confess that I love to be convinced of this inextinguishable vitality in Nature. I would rather that my body should be buried in a soil thus wide-awake—than in a mere inert & dead earth.

November 24, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The first spitting of snow—a flurry or squall—from out a gray or slate colored cloud that came up from the west—This consisted almost entirely of pellets an eighth of an inch or less in diameter– These drove along almost horizontally curving upward like the outline of a breaker—before the strong & chilling wind. The plowed fields were for a short time whitened with them— The green moss about the barest trees was very prettily  spotted white with them—and also the large beds of cladonia in the pastures— They come to contrast with the red cockspur lichens on the stumps which you had not noticed before—


Striking against the trunks of the trees on the west side they fell & accumulated in a white line at the base—Though a slight touch, this was the first wintry scene of the season— The air was so filled with these snow pellets that we could not see a hill half a mile off for an hour— The hands seek the warmth of the pockets—& fingers are so be-numbed that you as cannot open your jacknife. 


November 23


1850 in Thoreau’s Journal:

The apple season is well-nigh over.

1852 in Thoreau’s Journal:

This morning the ground is white with snow—and it still snows. This is the first time it has been fairly white this season, though once before many weeks ago it was slightly whitened for 10 or 15 minutes….There is something genial even in the first snow–& nature seems to relent a little of her November harshness. 


Men too are disposed to give thanks for the bounties of the year all over the land–& the sound of the mortar is heard in all houses–& the odor of summer savory reaches even to poets’ garrets.

November 22, 1860



in Thoreau’s Journal:

Though you are finger-cold toward night, and you cast a stone on your first ice, and see the unmelted crystals under every bank, it is glorious November weather.

November 21, 1850

in Thoreau’s Journal:


October must be the month of ripe & tinted leaves — Throughout November they are almost entirely withered & somber—the few that remain. In this month the sun is valued—when it shines warmer or brighter we are sure to observe it— There are not so many colors to attract the eye. We begin to remember the summer. We walk fast to keep warm. For a month past I have sat by a fire.

November 19, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Up river in boat to Hubbard’s meadow cranberrying —


They redden all the lee shore—the water being still ap. at the same level with the 16th ult. This is a very pleasant & warm Indian summer afternoon…Got 1 1/2 bushels of cranberries mixed with chaff.

November 18, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The sunlight is peculiarly thin & yellow falling on the pale brown bleaching herbage of the fields at this season. There is no redness in it— This is November sunlight.

Much cold slate-colored cloud—bare twigs seen gleaming toward the light like gossamer—pure green of pines whose old leaves have fallen—reddish or yellowish brown oak leaves rustling on the hillsides—very pale brown bleaching—almost hoary fine grass or hay in the fields—akin to the frost which has killed it—& flakes of clear yellow sunlight falling on it here and there—such is November. 


The fine grass killed by this frost & bleached till it is almost silvery has clothed the fields for a long time. 

Now as in the Spring, we rejoice in sheltered and sunny places. Some corn is left out still even—

November 17, 1858


in Thoreau’s Journal:

The very sunlight on the pale-brown-bleached fields is an interesting object these cold days. I naturally look toward it as a wood fire. Not only different objects are presented to our attention at different seasons of the year, but we are in a frame of body and mind to appreciate different objects at different seasons.  I see one thing when it is cold and another when it is warm.


November 16, 1850 in Thoreau’s Journal:

Some of our richest days are those in which no sun shines outwardly, but so much the more a sun shines inwardly. I love nature. I love the landscape because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests— It is cheerfully—musically earnest. I rely on the earth….