August 1, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal

How much of beauty–of color as well as form–on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us! No one but a botanist is likely to perceive nicely the different shades of green which the open surface of the earth is clothed–not even a landscape painter if he does not know the species of sedges and grasses which paint it.  With respect to the color of grass, most of those even who attend peculiarly to the aspects of Nature only observe that it is more or less dark or light, green or brown, or velvety, fresh or parched, etc. But if you are studying grasses you look for another and different beauty, and you find it, in the wonderful variety of color, etc., presented by the various species. 

Take the bare, unwooded earth now, and consider the beautiful variety of shades (or tints ?) of green that clothe it under a bright sun. The pastured hills of Conantum, now just imbrowned (probably by the few now stale flowering tops of the red-top which the cows have avoided as too wiry), present a hard and solid green or greenish brown, just touched here and there delicately with light patches of sheep’s fescue (though it may be only its radical leaves left), as if a dew lay on it there, —and this has some of the effect of a watered surface, —and the whole is dotted with a thousand little shades of projecting rocks and shrubs. Then, looking lower at the meadow in Miles’s field, that is seen as a bright-yellow and sunny stream (yet with a slight tinge of glaucous) between the dark-green potato-fields, flowing onward with windings and expansions, and, as it were, with rips and waterfalls, to the river meadows.

July 30, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The fore part of this month was the warmest weather we have had; the last part sloping toward autumn has reflected some of its coolness, for we are very forward to anticipate the fall. Perhaps I may say the spring culminated with the commencement of haying––& the summer side of the year in mid July.

3:30 P.M. ––To Flint’s Pond.

How long is it since I heard a veery? Do they go or become silent when the goldfinch heralds the autumn? Do not all flowers that blossom after mid-July remind us of the fall? After midsummer we have a belated feeling as if we had all been idlers––& are forward to see in each sight––& hear in each sound some presage of fall.–– just as in mid-age man anticipates the end of life. 

July 29, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Gaultheria procumbens [eastern spicy-wintergreen] in bloom on this year’s plants. The Mitchella repens [partridge berry] shows small green fruit….

July 27, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I observe grape-vines with green clusters almost fully grown hanging over the water, and hazelnut husks are fully formed and are richly, autumnally, significant. 

July 26, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Almost every bush now offers a wholesome & palatable diet to the wayfarer—large & dense clusters of v. vacillances—largest in most moist ground sprinkled with the red ones not ripe— Great high blue berries—some nearly as big as cranberries—of an agreeable acid—huckleberries of various kinds some shining black—some dull black—some blue—& low black berries of 2 or more varieties.

July 25, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

[Thoreau reporting from Moosehead Lake, Kineo, Maine.  Map shows the location of Mt. Caucomgomoc.]

Saturday. Very early this morning we heard the note of the wood thrush, on awaking, though this was a poor singer. I was glad to find that this prince of singers was so common in the wilderness. . . .The shores of this lake are rocky, rarely sandy, and we saw no good places for moose to come out on, i. e. no meadows. What P. called Caucomgomoc Mountain, with a double top, was seen north over the lake in mid-forenoon. Approaching the shore, we scared up some young dippers with the old bird. Like the shecorways, they ran over the water very fast. Landing on the east side, four or five miles north of Kineo, I noticed roses (R. nitida) in bloom, and, as usual, an abundance of rue (Thalictrum Cornuti) along the shore. The wood there was arbor-vitae, spruce, fir, white pine, etc. The ground and rotting trunks, as usual, covered with mosses, some strange kinds, — various wild feather and leaf-like mosses, of rank growth, that were new or rare to me,  —and an abundance of Clintonia borealis . . .

July 23, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A comfortable breeze blowing. Methinks I can write better in the afternoon, for the novelty of it— if I should go abroad this morning— My genius makes distinctions which my understanding cannot— and which my senses do not report. If I should reverse the usual— go forth & saunter in the fields all the forenoon then sit down in my chamber in the afternoon, which it is so unusual for me to do—it would be like a new season to me & the novelty of it inspire me. The wind has fairly blown me out doors—the elements were so lively & active— & I so sympathized with them that I could not sit while the wind went by. And I am reminded that we should especially improve the summer to live out of doors— When we may so easily it behoves us to break up this custom of sitting in the house. for it is but a custom—and I am not sure that it has the sanction of common sense. A man no sooner gets up than he sits down again….Is the literary man to live always or chiefly sitting in a chamber—through which Nature enters by a window only? What is the use of the summer?  ….but here outdoors is the place to store up influences.

July 20, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The gentle susurrus from the leaves of the trees on shore is very enlivening, as if Nature were freshening, awakening to some enterprise.

There is but little wind, but its sound, incessantly stirring the leaves at a little distance along the shore, heard not seen, is very inspiriting. It is like an everlasting dawn or awakening of nature to some great purpose.

July 18, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Methinks the asters and goldenrods begin, like the early ripening leaves, with midsummer heats. Now look out for these children of the sun, when already the fall of some of the very earliest spring flowers has commenced.

July 17, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I go to observe the lilies….The pontederia is in its prime alive with butterflies yellow & others––I see its tall blue spikes reflected beneath the edge of the pads on each side––pointing down to a heaven beneath as well as above–

July 15, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I hear a bay wing on the wall near-by sound far away—a fainter song spar—strain somewhat— I see its open mouth & quivering throat yet can hardly believe the seemingly distant strain proceeds from it—yaw yaw / twee twee / twitter twitter-te twee twe tw tw tw & so ends with a short & rapid trill— Again I am attracted by the Clam shell reach of the river running E & W—as seen from Hubbard’s fields—now beginning to be smoothed as in the fall— First next the meadows is the broad dark green rank of pickerel weeds &c &c (Polygonum &c) then the light reflecting edging of pads—& then the smooth still cloud reflecting water.  My thoughts are driven inward—even as clouds and trees are reflected in the still smooth water— There is an inwardness even in the mosquitoes hum—while I am picking blueberries in the dank wood.

July 14, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I see a rose now in its prime by the river in the water amid the willows & button bushes––while others lower on shore are nearly out of bloom…

July 13, 1852

A Journal.  —a book that shall contain a record of all your joy—your extacy….

The northern wild red wild cherry is ripe—handsome bright red but scarcely edible—also, sooner than I expected….