January 24

1856 in Thoreau’s Journal:

A journal is a record of experiences & growth–not a preserve of things well done or said. I am occasionally reminded of a statement which I have made in conversation & immediately forgotten–which would read much better than what I put in my journal. It is a ripe dry fruit of long past experience which falls from me easily without giving pain or pleasure– The charm of the journal must consist in a certain greenness–though freshness–& not in maturity. Here I cannot afford to be remembering what I said or did–my scurf cast off–but what I am & aspire to become.


1858 in Thoreau’s Journal:

What is a winter without snow and ice in this latitude? 

January 23, 1858

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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.

January 22, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

To set down such choice experiences that my own writings may inspire me.— and at last I may make wholes of parts. 

Certainly it is a distinct profession to rescue from oblivion & to fix the sentiments & thoughts which visit all men more or less generally. That the contemplation of the unfinished picture may suggest its harmonious completion. Associate reverently, and as much as you can with your loftiest thoughts. Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg—by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentally thrown together become a frame—in which more may be developed—& exhibited. Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing—of keeping a journal. That so we remember our best hours—& stimulate ourselves. My thoughts are my company    They have a certain individuality & separate existence—aye personality. Having by chance recorded a few disconnected thoughts and then brought them into juxtaposition—they suggest a whole new field in which it was possible to labor & to think. Thought begat thought….


January 21, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:


The sky has gradually become overcast & now it is just beginning to snow—looking against a dark roof—I detect a single flake from time to time—but when I look at the dark side of the woods 2 miles off in the horizon there already is seen a slight thickness or mistiness in the air—In this way, perhaps, may it first be detected…..Pines & oaks seen at a distance—say 2 miles off—are considerably blended & make one harmonious impression—the former if you attend—are seen to be of a blue or misty black—and the latter form commonly a reddish brown ground, out of which the former rise—These colours are no longer in strong contrast with each other—


January 20, 1855

in Thoreau’s Journal:

In many instances the snow had lodged on trees yesterday in just such forms as a white napkin or counterpane dropped on them would take—protuberant in the middle with many fold & dimples— An ordinary leafless bush supported so much snow on its twigs—a perfect maze like a whirligig—though not in one solid mass—that you could not see through it— We heard only a few chic-a-dees. Some times the snow on the bent P. Pines made me think of rams’ or elephants’ heads ready to butt you.

In particular places standing on their snowiest side the woods were incredibly fair—white as alabaster—indeed the young pines reminded you of the purest statuary.  & the stately full grown ones towering around affected you as if you stood in a Titanic sculptor’s studio. So purely & delicately white—transmitting the light—their dark trunks all concealed. And in many places where the snow lay on withered oak leaves between you & the light—various delicate fawn coloured & cinnamon tints blending with the white still enhanced the beauty.


How new all things seem!  Here is a broad, shallow pool in the fields which yesterday was slush, now converted into a soft, white fleecy snow ice…It is like the beginning of the world. There is nothing hackneyed where a new snow can come and cover all the landscape…The world is not only new to the eye, but is still as at creation. Every blade and leaf is hushed, not a bird or insect is heard, only, perchance, a faint tinkling sleigh-bell in the distance…The snow still adheres conspicuously to the N.W. sides of the stems of the trees, quite up to their summits, with a remarkably sharp edge in that direction…It would be about as good as a compass to steer by in a cloudy day or by night…I doubt if I can convey an idea of the appearance of the woods yesterday. As you stood in their midst, and looked round on their boughs and twigs laden with snow, it seemed as if there could be none left to reach the ground. These countless zigzag white arms crossing each other at every possible angle completely closed up the view like a light drift within three or four rods on every side, the wintriest prospect imaginable. That snow which sifted down into the wood paths was much drier and lighter than elsewhere.

January 18, 1856


in Thoreau’s Journal:

To Walden, to learn the temperature of the water….This is a very mild, melting winter day, but clear and bright. Yet I see the blue shadows on the snow at Walden. The snow lies very level there, about ten inches deep, and, for the most part, bears me as I go across with my hatchet.  I think I never saw a more elysian blue than my shadow.  I am turned into a tall blue Persian from my cap to my boots, such as no mortal dye can produce, with an amethystine hatchet in my hand. I am in raptures with my own shadow. Our very shadows are no longer black but a celestial blue.

January 17, 1852

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

Fair thoughts & a serene mind make fair days…As the skies appear to a man, so is his mind…. The World runs to see the panorama, while there is panorama in the sky which few go out to see.

January 16, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:  


…every twig and trunk and blade of withered sedge is thus covered or cased with ice, and accordingly…when you go facing the sun, the hollows look like a glittering shield set round with brilliants…


The snow which 3 quarters conceals the cassandra—in these ponds—& every twig & trunk & blade of withered sedge is thus covered or cased with ice— and accordingly, as I have said, when you go facing the sun, the hollows look like a glittering shield set round with brilliants. That bent sedge in the midst of the shield—each particular blade of it being married to an icy wire 20 times its size at least shines like polished silver rings or semicircles— It must have been far more splendid here yesterday before any of the ice fell off—


January 15, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:  

There is a still life in America that is little observed or dreamed of….


Cold as the weather is and has been, almost all the brook is open in the meadow there, an artery of black water in the midst of the snow, and there are many sink-holes, where the water is exposed at the bottom of dimple in the snow. Indeed, in some places these little black spots are distributed very thickly, the snow in swells covering the intervening tussocks.

January 14, 1853


in Thoreau’s Journal:

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.

January 13, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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….

January 12, 1860

in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is a very beautiful and spotless snow now, it having just ceased falling. 


You are struck by its peculiar tractlessness, as if it were a thick white blanket just spread. As it were, each snow-flake lies as it first fell, or there is a regular gradation from the denser bottom up to the surface which is perfectly light, and as it were fringed with the last flakes that fell.

January 10, 1858


in Thoreau’s Journal:

The N. side of Walden is a warm walk in sunny weather. If you are sick and despairing, go forth in winter and see the red alder catkins dangling at the extremity of the twigs all in the wintry air, like long, hard mulberries, promising a new spring and the fulfilment of all our hopes. We prize any tenderness, any softening in the winter, catkins, birds’ nests, insect life, etc. The most I get, perchance, is the sight of a mulberry-like red catkin, which I know has a dormant life in it seemingly greater than my own.


January 9, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:


Standing in the middle of Walden I see with perfect distinctness the form & outlines of the low hills which surround it though they are wooded because they are quite white, being covered with snow– While the woods are for the most part bare or very thin leaved. I see thus the outline of the hills 8 or 10 rods back through the trees–This I can never do in the summer when the leaves are thick & the ground is nearly the same color with them. These white hills are now seen as through a veil of stems….The perfect winter days are cold but clear & bright.

January 8, 1852


in Thoreau’s Journal:

Stood within a rod of a downy woodpecker on an apple-tree. How curious and exciting the blood-red spot on its hind head! I ask why it is there but no answer is rendered by these snow-clad fields. It is so close to the bark I do not see its feet. It looks behind as it had a black cassock open behind and showing a white under-garment between the shoulders and down the back. It is briskly and incessantly tapping all round the dead limbs, but hardly twice in a place, as if to sound the tree, and so see if it has any worm in it, or perchance to start them. How much he deals with the bark of trees, all his life long tapping and inspecting it. He it is that scatters those fragments of bark and lichens about on the snow at the base of trees. What a lichenest he must be! or perhaps it is fungi make his favorite study, for he deals most with dead limbs. How briskly he glides up or drops himself down a limb, creeping round and round, and hopping from limb to limb, and now flitting with a rippling sound of his wings to another tree.

January 7, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:


P.M. To Walden…It is bitter cold, with a cutting N.W. wind….I go through the woods toward the cliffs along the side of the Well Meadow field. There is nothing so sanitive, so poetic, as a walk in the woods and fields even now, when I meet none abroad for pleasure. Nothing so inspires me, and excites such serene and profitable thought….No amount of gold or respectability could in the least redeem it, dining with the governor or member of Congress!! But alone in the distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related. This cold and solitude are friends of mine….I enter some glade in the woods, perchance, where a few weeds and dry leaves alone lift themselves above the surface of the snow, and it is as if I had come to an open window. I see out and around myself. Our sky-lights are thus far away from the ordinary resorts of men. I am not satisfied with ordinary windows. I must have a true sky-light, and that is outside the village….I am aware that most of my neighbours would think it a hardship to be compelled to linger here one hour, especially this bleak day, and yet I receive this sweet and ineffable compensation for it. It is the most agreeable thing I do. I love and celebrate nature even in detail because I love the scenery of these interviews and translations.

January 6, 1856

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

The exquisite purity of the snow & the gracefulness of its curves are remarkable. Around some houses there is not a single track– Neither man woman nor child–dog nor cat nor fowl has stirred out today.– There has been no meeting. Yet this afternoon since the storm it has not been very bad travelling.

January 5, 1852

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

To-day the trees are white with snow—I mean their stems & branches and have the true wintry look—on the storm-side—not till this has the winter come to the forest. They look like the small frost work in the path & on the windows now—.  Especially the oak woods at a distance, & you see better the form which their branches take. That is a picture of winter & now you may put a cottage under them and roof it with snowdrifts.— & let the smoke curl up amid the boughs in the morning.