December 8, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

7 A. M. – How can we spare to be abroad in the morning red, to see the forms of the leafless eastern trees against the dun sky and hear the cocks crow, when a thin low mist hangs over the ice and frost in meadows?

December 7, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a fair, sunny, and warm day in the woods for the season. We eat our dinners on the middle of the line, amid the young oaks in a sheltered and very unfrequented place. I cut some leafy shrub oaks and cast them down for a dry and springy seat. As I sit there amid the sweet-fern, talking with my man Briney, I observe the recent shoots of the sweet-fern —which, like many larger uses and trees, have a few leaves in a tuft still at their extremities —toward the sun are densely covered with a bright, warm, silvery down, which looks like frost, so thick and white. Looking the other way, I see none of it, but the bare reddish twigs. Even this is a cheering and compensating discovery in my otherwise barren work. I get thus a few positive values, answering to the bread and cheese which make my dinner. I owe thus to my weeks at surveying a few such slight but positive discoveries…

I would rather sit at this table with the sweet-fern twigs between me and the sun than at the king’s.

December 6, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Go out at 9 AM to see the glaze. It is already half fallen, melting off. The dripping trees and wet falling ice will wet you through like rain in the woods. It is a lively sound, a busy tinkling, the incessant brattling and from time to time rushing, crashing sound of this falling ice, and trees suddenly erecting themselves when relieved of their loads. It is now perfect only on the north sides of woods which the sun has not touched or affected. Looking at a dripping tree between you and the sun, you may see here or there one or another rainbow color, a small brilliant point of light.


December 5, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Many living leaves are very dark red now the only effect of the frost on them—the checker-berry—andromeda—low cedar and more or less lambkill—&c.

Saw & heard a downy woodpecker on an apple tree—have not many winter birds, like this & the chickadee, a sharp note like tinkling glass or icicles  —  The chip of the tree-sparrow also & whistle of the shrike is not wintry in the same way?—& The sonorous hooting owl—  But not so the jay & E. linaria —& still less the crow.  Now for the short days & early twilight—in which I hear the sound of wood chopping.  

December 4, 1853

December 4, 1853 in Thoreau’s Journal:

The coldest day yet, clear with considerable wind, after the first cloudless morning for a week or two. Goose Pond apparently froze over last night, all but a few rods, but not thick enough to bear. I see a lizard on the bottom under the ice. No doubt I have sometimes mistaken them for tadpoles. (Flint’s Pond only skimmed a little at the shore, like the river.)

The ice of Goose Pond already has a dusty look. It shows the crystals distinctly.

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, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Returning, the water is smoother and more beautiful than before. The ripples we make produce ribbed reflections or shadows….all the water behind us, as we row, and even on the right and left at a distance, is perfectly unruffled…The reflections after sunset were distinct and glorious, the heaven into which we unceasingly rowed.

November 29, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal

Begins to snow this morning and snows slowly and interruptedly with a little fine hail all day till it is several inches deep.

This the first snow I have seen, but they say the ground was whitened for a short time some weeks ago.

It has been a remarkably pleasant November, warmer and pleasanter than last year.

November 26, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

To the Colburn farm woodlot. The chickadee is the bird of the wood, the most unfailing.

When in a windy or in any day you have penetrated some thick wood like this, you are pretty sure to hear its cheery note. At this season, it is almost its sole inhabitant. 

November 25, 1850

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.  I would fain forget all my morning’s occupation—my obligations to society. But sometimes it happens that I cannot easily shake off the village—the thought of some work—some surveying will run in my head and I am not where my body is—  I am out of my senses.  In my walks I would return to my senses like a bird or a beast. 

What business have I in the woods if I am thinking of something out of the woods. 

November 24, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a lichen day, with a little moist snow falling.  The great green lungwort lichen shows now on the oaks (strange that there should be none on the pines close by), and the fresh bright chestnut fruit of other kinds, glistening with moisture, brings life and immortality to light.

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 20, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I was just thinking

it would be fine to get a specimen leaf from each changing tree & shrub & plant in Autumn in sep- & oct- when it had got its brightest characteristic color the intermediate ripeness in its transition from the green to the russet or brown state —outline & copy its color exactly with paint in a book —A book which should be a memorial of October—Be entitled October hues—or Autumnal tints—I remember especially the beautiful yellow of the P. Grandidentata & the tint of the scarlet maple. What a memento such a book would be—beginning with the earliest reddening of the leaves—woodbine & ivy—&c &c And the lake of red-leaves-down to the latest oaks.


November 19, 1850

in Thoreau’s Journal:

There was also the columbine, its leaves still alive and green; and I was pleased to smell the pennyroyal which I had bruised, though this dried up long ago. Each season is thus drawn out and lingers in certain localities, as the birds and insects know very well.

If you penetrate to some warm recess under a cliff in the woods, you will be astonished at the amount of summer life that still flourishes there. No doubt more of the summer’s life than we are aware thus slips by and outmanoeuvres the winter, gliding from fence to fence.