The snow has been for some time more than a foot deep on a level, and some roads drifted quite full; and the cold for some weeks has been intense, as low as twenty and twenty-one degrees in the e’arly morning. A Canadian winter. Some say that we have not had so long a spell of cold weather since ’31, when they say it was not seen to thaw for six weeks. But last night and to-day the weather has moderated. It is glorious to be abroad this afternoon. The snow melts on the surface. The warmth of the sun reminds me of summer. The dog runs before us on the railroad causeway and appears to enjoy it as much as ourselves.
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.
What is it that I see from one mile to two miles distant in the horizon on all sides from my window, but the woods, which still, almost without exception, encircle our New England towns. They still bound almost every view. They have been driven off only so far. Where still wild creatures haunt. How long will these last? Is this a universal and permanent feature? Have the oldest countries retained it? Is it not an interesting and important question whether these are decreasing or not? Look out what window I will, my eyes rest in the distance on a forest! Is this fact of no significance? Is this circumstance of no value ? Why such pains in old countries to plant gardens and parks? A certain sample of wild nature, a certain primitiveness.
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 colors are no longer in strong contrast with each other—
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.
Take the most rigid tree, the whole effect is peculiarly soft and spirit-like, for there is no marked edge or outline. How could you draw the outline of these snowy fingers seen against the fog, without exaggeration? There is no more a boundary-line or circumference that can be drawn, than a diameter. Hardly could the New England farmer drive to market under these trees without feeling that his sense of beauty was addressed. He would be aware that the phenomenon called beauty was become visible, if one were at leisure or had had the right culture to appreciate it. A miller with whom I rode actually remarked on the beauty of the trees; and a farmer told me in all sincerity that, having occasion to go into Walden Woods in his sleigh, he thought he never saw anything so beautiful in all his life, and if there had been men there who knew how to write about it, it would have been a great occasion for them.
The endless variety in the forms and texture of the clouds! —some fine, some coarse grained. I saw tonight overhead, stretching two thirds across the sky, what looked like the backbone, with portions of the ribs, of a fossil monster. Every form and creature is thus shadowed forth in vapor in the heavens.
…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—
This forenoon I walk up the Assabet to see it. The hemlocks are perhaps a richer sight than any tree. –– such Christmas trees, thus, sugared, as were never seen. On one side you see more or less greenness, but when you stand due north they are unexpectedly white and rich, so beautifully still, and then you look under them you see some great rock, or rocks, all hoary with the same, and a finer frost on the very fine dead hemlock twigs there and on hanging roots and twigs, quite like the cobwebs in a grist-mill covered with meal, –– and it implies a stillness like that; or it is like the lightest down glued on.
In our workshops we pride ourselves on discovering a use for what had previously been regarded as waste, but how partial and accidental our economy compared with Nature’s. In Nature nothing is wasted. Every decayed leaf and twig and fibre is only the better fitted to serve in some other department, and all at last are gathered in her compost-heap.
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.
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.
This is the third warm day, the warmest of all. The Andromeda Ponds methinks look redder. I walked through one. The lowest growth is sphagnum, fresh, large, and handsome, some green, some red, into which occasionally I slumped nearly a foot. Some lamb kill is mixed with the andromeda. A few islands of gray high blueberry bushes, with round red buds, rise here and there mixed with the panicled andromeda, large cottongrass, now prostrate, etc. The pitcher-plant leaves are still for the most part green and uninjured here, though full of ice.
Many have holes in their sides, through which insects appear to have eaten out. However, the external ear or handle is also eaten through, so the agent may have been without.
When, as now, in January a south wind melts the snow, and the bare ground appears, covered with sere grass and occasionally wilted green leaves which seem in doubt whether to let go their greenness quite or absorb new juices against the coming year, — in such a season a perfume seems to exhale from the earth itself and the south wind melts my integuments also. Then is she my mother earth.
I derive a real vigor from the scent of the gale wafted over the naked ground, as from strong meats, and realize again how man is the pensioner of Nature. We are always conciliated and cheered when we are fed by an influence, and our needs are felt to be part of the domestic economy of Nature.
High wind and howling and driving snow- storm all night, now much drifted. There is a great drift in the front entry and at the crack of every door and on the window-sills. Great drifts on the south of walls….
Now, at 4.15, the blue shadows are very distinct on the snow-banks…
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.