August 19, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a glorious and ever-memorable day. We observe attentively the first beautiful days in the spring, but not so much in the autumn. We might expect that the first fair days after so much rain would be remarkable. It is a day affecting the spirits of men, but there is nobody to enjoy it but ourselves. What does the laborer ox and the laborer man care for the beautiful days? Will the haymaker when he comes home tonight know that this has been such a beautiful day? This day itself has been the great phenomenon, but will it be reported in any journal, as the storm is, and the heat? It is like a great and beautiful flower unnamed. I see a man trimming willows on the Sudbury causeway and others raking hay out of the water in the midst of all this clarity and brightness, but are they aware of the splendor of this day? The mass of mankind, who live in houses or shops or are bent upon their labor out of doors, know nothing of the beautiful days which are passing above and around them. Is not such a day worthy of a hymn?

It is such a day as mankind might spend in praising and glorifying nature. It might be spent as a natural sabbath, if only all men would accept the hint, devoted to unworldly thoughts. The first bright day of the fall, the earth reflector. The dog-day mists are gone; the washed earth shines; the cooler air braces man. No summer day is so beautiful as the fairest spring and fall days.

August 18, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Elizabeth Hoar shows me the following plants which she brought from the Wht Mts the 16th ult. Chiogenes hispidula creeping snow-berry

also called Gaultheria & also vaccinium hispidula–in fruit. –– with a partridge berry scent & taste.

August 17, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I see a goldfinch go twittering through the still, louring day, and am reminded of the peeping flocks which will soon herald the thoughtful season. 

Ah! If I could so live that there should be no desultory moment in all my life! That in each season when some part of nature especially flourishes, then a corresponding part of me may not fail to flourish….I am less somnolent for the cool season.  I wake to a perennial day.

August 16, 1856

in Thoreau’s Journal:

What a variety of old garden herbs – mints, etc. – are naturalized along an old settled road, like this to Boston which the British travelled! And then there is the site, apparently, of an old garden by the tanyard, where the spearmint grows so rankly. I am intoxicated with the fragrance. Though I find only one new plant (the cassia), yet old acquaintances grow so rankly, and the spearmint intoxicates me so, that I am bewildered, as it were by a variety of new things. An infinite novelty. All the roadside is the site of an old garden where fragrant herbs have become naturalized, – hounds-tongue, bergamot, spearmint, elecampane, etc. I see even the tiger lily, with its bulbs, growing by the roadside far from houses (near Leighton’s graveyard).

I think I have found many new plants, and am surprised when I can reckon but one. A little distance from my ordinary walk and a little variety in the growth or luxuriance will produce this illusion. By the discovery of one new plant all bounds seem to be infinitely removed.

August 15, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The button bush is now nearly altogether out of bloom––so that it is too late to see the rivers brink in its perfection–– It must be seen between the blooming of the mikania & the going out of bloom of the button bush––Before you feel this sense of lateness in the year––before the meadows are shorn––and the grass of hills & pastures is thus withered & russet––

August 14, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

How long we may have gazed on a particular scenery and think that we have seen and known it, when, at length, some bird or quadruped comes and takes possession of it before our eyes, and imparts to it a wholly new character.

The heron uses these shallows as I cannot. I give them up to him.

August 13, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The change decay & fall of the brakes in woods &c is perhaps more autumnal that any sight––  They make more show than the aralia. Some are quite brown & shriveled––others––yellow––others yellow & brown––others yellow, brown, & green––making a very rich & particolored or checkered work as of plaited straw-bead or straw work––or ivory––  Others are still green with brown spots. In respect to these and many other plants of this size & habitat it is already fall. They stand yellow & yellowing all through the woods–– None perhaps so conspicuous as the brake–– At thrush alley was surprised to behold how many birch leaves had turned yellow––every other one––while clear fresh leather colored ones strewed the ground with a pretty thick bed under each tree––  So far as the birches go it is a perfect autumnal scene there––

August 12, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The smallest of nature’s works fits the farthest and widest view, as if it had been referred in its bearings to every point in space. It harmonizes with the horizon line and the orbits of the planets. 

August 11, 1853

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I see some naked viburnum berries red and some purple now. There are berries which men do not use, like choke-berries, which here in Hubbard’s Swamp grow in great profusion and blacken the bushes. How much richer we feel for this unused abundance and superfluity! Nature would not appear so rich, the profusion so rich, if we knew a use for everything.

August 9, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is vain to try to write unless you feel strong in the knees.

Any book of great authority and genius seems to our imagination to permeate and pervade all space. Its spirit, like a more subtle ether, sweeps along with the prevailing winds of the country. Its influence conveys a new gloss to the meadows and the depths of the wood, and bathes the huckleberries on the hills, as sometimes a new influence in the sky washes in waves over the fields and seems to break on some invisible beach in the air. All things confirm it. It spends the mornings and the evenings.

August 8, 1854

in Thoreau’s Journal:

This is a day of sunny water. As I walk along the bank of the river I look down a rod & see distinctly the fishes and the bottom. The cardinals are in perfection—standing in dark recesses of the green shore, or in the open meadow. They are fluviatile & stand along some river or brook—like myself.

August 7, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

We see the rain bow apparently when we are on the edge of the rain just as the sun is setting…

Who does not feel that here is a phenomenon which Natural philosophy alone is inadequate to explain?  

The use of the rain-bow, who has described it.

August 6, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

A man must generally get away some hundreds or thousands of miles from home before he can be said to begin his travels. Why not begin his travels at home?  …. It takes a man of genius to travel in his own country, in his native village; to make any progress between his door and his gate.

August 5, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The best show of lilies is on the west side of the bay, in Cyrus Hosmer’s meadow, above the willow- row. Many of them are not open at 10 o’clock a. m. I noticed one with the sepals perfectly spread flat on the water, but the petals still held together in a sharp cone, being held by the concave, slightly hooked points. Touching this with an oar, it opens quickly with a spring. The same with many others, whose sepals were less spread. Under the influence of the light and warmth, the petals elevate or expand themselves in the middle, becoming more and more convex, till at last, being released at their overlapping points, they spring open and quickly spread themselves equally, revealing their yellow stamens.

How satisfactory is the fragrance of this flower! It is the emblem of purity. It reminds me of a young country maiden. It is just so simple and unproved. Wholesome as the odor of the cow. It is not a highly refined odor, but merely a fresh youthful morning sweetness. It is merely the unalloyed sweetness of the earth and the water; a fair opportunity and field for life; like its petals, uncolored by any experience; a simple maiden on her way to school, her face surrounded by a white ruff. But how quickly it becomes the prey of insects

August 4, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Here, in sight of Wachusett and these rivers and woods, my mind goes singing to itself of other themes than taxation. The rush sparrow sings still unintelligible, as from beyond a depth in me which I have not fathomed, where my future lies folded up. I hear several faint notes, quite outside me, which populate the waste.

This is such fresh and flowing weather, as if the waves of the morning had subsided over the day.

August 3, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

I hear a cricket creak in the shade; also the sound of a distant piano. The music reminds me of imagined heroic ages; it suggests such ideas of human life and the field which it affords as the few noblest passages of poetry. Those few interrupted strains which reach me through the trees suggest the same thoughts and aspirations that all melody, by whatever sense appreciated, has ever done. I am affected. What coloring variously fair and intense our life admits of! How a thought will mould and paint it. Impressed by some vague vision, as it were, elevated into a more glorious sphere of life, we no longer know this, and we can deny its existence. We say we are enchanted, perhaps. But what I am impressed by is the fact that this enchantment is no delusion. So far as truth is concerned, it is a fact such as what we call our actual existence, but it is a far higher and more glorious fact. It is evidence of such a sphere, of such possibilities. It is its truth and reality that affect me.

A thrumming of piano-strings beyond the gardens and through the elms. At length the melody steals into my being. I know not when it began to occupy me. By some fortunate coincidence of thought or circumstance I am attuned to the universe, I am fitted to hear, my being moves in a sphere of melody, my fancy and imagination are excited to an inconceivable degree. This is no longer the dull earth on which I stood. It is possible to live a grander life here; already the steed is stamping, the knights are prancing; already our thoughts bid a proud farewell to the so-called actual life and its humble glories. Now this is the verdict of a soul in health. But the soul diseased says that its own vision and life alone is true and sane. What a different aspect will courage put upon the face of things! This suggests what a perpetual flow of spirit would produce.

August 2, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a new era with the flowers when the small purple fringed orchis as now is found in shady swamps standing along the brooks. (It appears to be alone of its class— Not to be overlooked it has so much flower though not so high colored as the Arethusa).

August 1, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Occasionally we rise above the necessity of virtue into an unchangeable morning light, in which we have not to choose in a dilemma between right and wrong, but simply to live right on and breathe the circumambient air.

There is no name for this life unless it be the very vitality of vita.

July 31, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

[along the East Branch in Maine]

I also saw here, or soon after, the red cohosh berries, ripe (for the first time in my life).