June 1, 1852. Evening. To the Lee place. The moon about full. The sounds I hear by the bridge: the midsummer frog (I think it is not the toad), the night-hawk, crickets, the peet-weet (it is early), the hum of dor-bugs, and the whippoorwill. The boys are coming home from fishing, for the river is down at last.
June 1, 1853. Quite a fog this morning. Does it not always follow the cooler nights after the first really warm weather about the end of May? Saw a water-snake yesterday with its tail twisted about some dead-weed stubble, and quite dry and stiff, as if it were preparing to shed its skin. . . .
Bees are swarming now, and those who keep them often have to leave their work in haste to secure them.
p. m. To Walden. Summer begins now, about a week past, with the expanded leaves, the shade, and warm weather. Cultivated fields, too, are leaving out, that is, corn and potatoes coming up. Most trees have leaved and are now forming fruit. Young berries, too, are forming, and birds are being hatched. Dor-bugs and other insects have come forth the first warm evening after showers. The birds have now [all?] come, and no longer fly in flocks. The hylodes are no longer heard; the bull-frogs begin to trump. Thick and extensive fogs in the morning begin. Plants are rapidly growing, shooting. Hoeing corn has commenced. The first bloom of the year is over. It is now the season of growth. Have not wild animals now henceforth their young, and fishes, too?
The pincushion galls on young white oaks are now among the most beautiful objects in the woods,—coarse, woolly, white, spotted with bright red or crimson on the exposed side. It is remarkable that a mere gall, which at first we are inclined to regard as something abnormal, should be made so beautiful, as if it were the flower of the tree; that a disease, an excrescence, should prove, perchance, the greatest beauty, as the tear of the pearl; beautiful scar let sins they may be. Through our temptations, aye, and our falls, our virtues appear. As in many a character, many a poet, we see that beauty exhibited in a gall which was meant to have bloomed in a flower, unchecked. Such, however, is the accomplishment of the world.
The poet cherishes his chagrin and sets his sighs to music. This gall is the tree's "Ode to Dejection." How oft it chances that the apparent fruit of a shrub, its apple, is merely a gall or blight! How many men, meeting with some blast in the moist, growing days of their youth, so that what should have been a sweet and palatable fruit in them becomes a mere puff and excrescence, say that they have experienced religion! Their fruit is a gall, a puff, an excrescence, for want of moderation and continence. So many plants never ripen their fruit. . . .
The news of the explosion of the powder mills was not only carried seaward by the cloud which its smoke made, but more effectually, though more slowly, by the fragments which were floated thither by the river. M——— yesterday showed me quite a pile of fragments and short pieces of large timber, still black with powder, which he had saved as they were drifting by. . . . Some, no doubt, were carried down to the Merrimack, and by the Merrimack to the ocean, till, perchance, they got into the Gulf Stream and were cast upon the coast of Norway, covered with barnacles,—or who can tell on what more distant strand?—still bearing traces of burnt powder, still capable of telling how and where they were launched, to those who can read their signs. Mingling with wrecks of vessels, which told a different tale, this wreck of a powder-mill was cast up on some outlandish strand, and went to swell the pile of drift-wood—collected by some native—shouldered by whales, alighted on at first by the musk-rat and the peet-weet, and finally, perhaps, by the stormy petrel and other beach birds. It is long before nature forgets it. How slowly the ruins are being dispersed. . . .
I am as white as a miller—a rye-miller, at least—with the lint from the young leaves and twigs. The tufts of pinks on the side of the peak by the pond grow raying out from a centre, somewhat like a cyme, on the warm, dry side hill,—some a lighter, some a richer and darker shade of pink. With what a variety of colors we are entertained! Yet most colors are rare or in small doses, presented to us as a condiment or spice; much of green, blue, black, and white, but of yellow and the different shades of red, far less. The eyes feast on the colors of flowers as on tidbits.
I hear now, at five o'clock, a farmer's horn calling the hands in from the field to an early tea. Heard afar by the walker, over the woods, at this hour, or at noon, bursting upon the stillness of the air, putting life into some portion of the horizon, this is one of the most suggestive and pleasing of the country sounds produced by man. I know not how far it is peculiar to New England or the United States. I hear two or three prolonged blasts, as I am walking along, some sultry noon, in the midst of the still woods,—a sound which I know to be produced by human breath, the most sonorous parts of which alone reach me; and I see in my mind's eye the hired men and master dropping the implements of their labor in the field, and wending their way with a sober satisfaction toward the house. I see the well-sweep rise and fall. I see the preparatory ablutions, and the table laden with the smoking meal. It is a significant hum in a distant part of the hive. . . .
How much lupine is now in full bloom on bare sandy brows or promontories, running into meadows where the sod is half worn away and the sand exposed! The geraniums are now getting to be common. Hieracium venosum just out on this peak, and the snapdragon catchfly is here, abundantly in blossom a little after five p. m.,—a pretty little flower, the petals dull crimson beneath or varnished mahogany color, and rose-tinted white within or above. It closed on my way home, but opened again in water in the evening. Its opening in the night chiefly is a fact which interests and piques me. Do any in sects visit it then?—Lambkill just beginning,—the very earliest. . . . New, bright, glossy, light-green leaves of the umbelled wintergreen are shooting on this hill-side, but the old leaves are particularly glossy and shining, as if varnished and not yet dry, or most highly polished. Did they look thus in the winter? I do not know any leaf so wet-glossy.
While walking up this hill-side I disturbed a night-hawk eight or ten feet from me, which went half fluttering, half hopping, the mottled creature, like a winged toad (as Nuttall says the French of Louisiana call it) down the hill as far as I could see. Without moving I looked about and saw its two eggs on the bare ground on a slight shelf of the hill, on the dead pine needles and sand, without any cavity or nest whatever; very obvious when once you had detected them, but not easily detected from their color, a coarse gray, formed of white spotted with bluish or slaty brown or amber,—a stone-granite color, like the places it selects. I advanced and put my hand on them, and while I stooped, seeing a shadow on the ground, looked up and saw the bird, which had fluttered down the hill so blind and helpless, circling low and swiftly past over my head, showing the white spot on each wing in true night-hawk fashion. When I had gone a dozen rods it appeared again, higher in the air, with its peculiar limping kind of flight, all the while noiseless, and suddenly descending it dashed at me within ten feet of my head, like an imp of darkness; then swept away high over the pond, dashing now to this side, now to that, on different tracks, as if, in pursuit of its prey, it had already forgotten its eggs on the earth. I can see how it might easily come to be regarded with superstitious awe.—A cuckoo very plainly heard.
Within little more than a fortnight the woods, from bare twigs, have become a sea of verdure, and young shoots have contended with one an other in the race. The leaves are unfurled all over the country. Shade is produced, the birds are concealed, their economies go forward uninterruptedly, and a covert is afforded to animals generally. But thousands of worms and insects are preying on the leaves while they are young and tender. Myriads of little parasols are suddenly spread all the country over to shield the earth and the roots of the trees from the parching heat, and they begin to flutter and to rustle in the breeze.
From Bare Hill there is a mist on the landscape, giving it a glaucous appearance. Now I see gentlemen and ladies sitting in boats at anchor on the lakes, in the calm afternoons, under parasols, making use of nature. The farmer, hoeing, is wont to look with scorn and pride on a man sitting in a motionless boat a whole half day, but he does not realize that the object of his own labor is perhaps merely to add another dollar to his heap, nor through what coarseness and inhumanity to his family and servants he often accomplishes this. He has an Irishman or a Canadian working for him by the month, and what, probably, is the lesson he is teaching him by precept and example? Will it make that laborer more of a man? this earth more like heaven?
A redwing's nest, four eggs, low in a tuft of sedge in an open meadow. What Champollion can translate the hieroglyphics on these eggs? It is always writing of the same character, though much diversified. While the bird picks up the material and lays this egg, who determines the style of the marking? When you approach, away dashes the dark mother, betraying her nest, and then chatters her anxiety from a neighboring bush, where she is soon joined by the red-shouldered male, who comes scolding over your head, chattering and uttering a sharp "phe phee-e."
I hear the note of a bobolink concealed in the top of an apple-tree behind me. Though this bird's full strain is ordinarily somewhat trivial, this one appears to be meditating a strain as yet unheard in meadow or orchard. Paulo majora canamus. He is just touching the strings of his theorbo, his glassichord, his water organ, and one or two notes globe themselves and fall in liquid bubbles from his tuning throat. It is as if he touched his harp within a vase of liquid melody, and when he lifted it out the notes fell like bubbles from the trembling strings. Methinks they are the most liquidly sweet and melodious sounds I ever heard. They are as refreshing to my ear as the first distant tinkling and gurgling of a rill to a thirsty man. Oh, never advance farther in your art; never let us hear your full strain, sir! But away he launches, and the meadow is all bespattered with melody. Its notes fall with the apple blossoms in the orchard. The very divinest part of his strain drops from his overflowing breast singultim, in globes of melody. It is the foretaste of such strains as never fell on mortal ears, to hear which we should rush to our doors and contribute all that we possess and are. Or it seemed as if in that vase full of melody some notes sphered themselves, and from time to time bubbled up to the surface, and were with difficulty repressed.
June 2, 1853. Half past three a. m. When I awake I hear the low, universal chirping or twittering of the chip-birds, like the bursting head on the surface of the uncorked day. First come, first served. You must taste the first glass of the day's nectar if you would get all the spirit of it. Its fixed air begins to stir and escape. Also the robin's morning song is heard, as in the spring,—earlier than the notes of most other birds, thus bringing back the spring; now rarely heard or noticed in the course of the day.
Four a. m. To Nashawtuck. I go to the river in a fog—through which I cannot see more than a dozen rods—three or four times as deep as the houses. As I row down the stream, the dark, dim outlines of the trees on the banks appear coming to meet me on the one hand, while they retreat and are soon concealed in it on the other. My strokes soon bring them behind me. The birds are wide awake, as if knowing that this fog presages a fair day. I ascend Nashawtuck from the north side. I am aware that I yield to the same influence which inspires the birds and the cockerels whose hoarse courage I hear now vaunted. I would crow like chanticleer in the morning, with all the lustiness that the new day imparts, without thinking of the evening, when I and all of us shall go to roost; with all the humility of the cock that takes his perch upon the highest rail and wakes the country with his clarion brag. Shall not men be inspired as much as cockerels? My feet are soon wet with fog. It is indeed a vast dew. Are not the clouds another kind of dew? Cool nights produce them. Now I have reached the hill-top above the fog at a quarter to five, about sunrise, and all around me is a sea of fog, level and white, reaching nearly to the top of this hill, only the tops of a few high hills appearing as distant islands in the main. Wachusett is a more distant and larger island, an Atlantis in the west; there is hardly one to touch at between me and it. It is just like the clouds beneath you as seen from a mountain. It is a perfect level in some directions, cutting the hills near their summits with a geometrical line, but puffed up here and there, and more and more toward the east, by the influence of the sun. An early freight train is heard, not seen, rushing through the town beneath it. You can get here the impression which the ocean makes, without ever going to the shore. The sea-shore exhibits nothing more grand, or on a larger scale. How grand where it rolls off over Ball's Hill, like a glorious ocean after a storm, just lit by the rising sun. It is as boundless as the view from the highlands of Cape Cod. These are exaggerated billows, the ocean on a larger scale, the sea after some tremendous and unheard-of storm, for the actual sea never appears so tossed up and universally white with foam and spray as this, now, far in the north eastern horizon, where mountain billows are breaking on some hidden reef or bank. It is tossed up toward the sun and by it into the most boisterous of seas, which no craft, no ocean steamer, is vast enough to sail on. Meanwhile, my hands are numb with cold, and my feet ache with it. Now, at quarter past five, before this southwest wind, it is already grown thin as gossamer in that direction, and woods and houses are seen through it, while it is heaped up toward the sun, and finally becomes so thick there that for a short time it appears in one place a dark, low cloud, such as else can only be seen from mountains; and now long, dark ridges of wood appear through it, and now the sun reflected from the river makes a bright glow in the fog, and now, at half past five, I see the green surface of the meadows, and the water through the trees sparkling with bright reflections. Men will go further and pay more to see a tawdry picture on canvas, a poor, painted scene, than to behold the fairest or grandest scene that nature ever displays in their immediate vicinity, although they may never have seen it in their lives. . . .
Cherry birds are the only ones I see in flocks now. I can tell them afar by their peculiar fine Spring-y note. . . .
Four p. m. To Conantum. . . . Arethusas are abundant in what I may call Arethusa Meadow. They are the more striking for growing in such green localities in meadows where the brilliant purple, more or less red, contrasts with the green grass. Found four perfect arrowheads, and one imperfect, in the potato field just plowed up for the first time that I remember, at the Hubbard bathing place . . .
Clintonia borealis a day or two. Its beauty at present consists chiefly in its commonly three very handsome, rich, clear, dark-green leaves, which Bigelow describes truly as "more than half a foot long, oblanceolate, smooth, and shining." They are perfect in form and color, broadly oblanceolate, with a deep channel down the middle, uninjured by insects, arching over from a centre at the ground; and from their midst rises the scape, a foot high, with one or more umbels of "green, bell-shaped flowers,"—yellowish-green, nodding or bent downward, but without fragrance. In fact, the plant is all green, both leaves and corolla. The leaves alone—and many have no scape—would detain the walker. Its berries are its flower. A single plant is a great ornament in a vase, from the beauty of its form and the rich, unspotted green of its leaves.
The sorrel now reddens the fields far and wide. As I look over the fields thus reddened in extensive patches, now deeper, now passing into green, and think of the season now in its prime and heyday, it looks as if it were the blood mantling in the cheek of the beautiful year,—the rosy cheek of its health, its rude June health. The medeola has been out a day or two, apparently,—another green flower. . . .
June 2, 1854. p. m. Up Assabet to Castilleja and Anursnack. While waiting for ——— and S——— I look now from the yard to the waving and slightly glaucous-tinged June meadows, edged by the cool shade of shrubs and trees,—a waving shore of shady bays and promontories, yet different from the August shades. It is beautiful and Elysian. The air has now begun to be filled with a bluish haze. These virgin shades of the year, when everything is tender, fresh, and green, how full of promise!—promising bowers of shade in which heroes may repose themselves. I would fain be present at the birth of shadow. It takes place with the first expansion of the leaves. . . . The black willows are already beautiful, and the hemlocks with their bead-work of new green. Are these not king-bird-days,—these clearer first June days, full of light, when this aerial, twittering-bird flutters from willow to willow, and swings on the twigs, showing his white-edged tail? The Azalea nudiflora is about done, or there was apparently little of it.—I see some breams' nests near my old bathing place above the stone heaps, with sharp, yellow, sandy edges, like a milk pan from within. . . . Also there are three or four small stone heaps formed. . . .
The painted-cup meadow is all lit up with ferns on its springy slopes. The handsome flowering fern, now rapidly expanding and fruiting at the same time, colors these moist slopes afar with its now commonly reddish fronds; and then there are the interrupted and the cinnamon ferns in very handsome and regular tufts, and the brakes standing singly, and more backward. . . .
June 2, 1855. From that cocoon of the Attacus cecropia which I found—I think it was on the 24th of May—came out this forenoon a splendid moth. I had pinned the cocoon to the sash at the upper part of my window, and quite forgotten it. About the middle of the forenoon S——— came in, and exclaimed that there was a moth on my window. My Attacus cecropia had come out and dropped down to the window-sill, where it hung on the side of a slipper, to let its wings hang down and develop themselves. At first the wings were not only not unfolded later ally, but not longitudinally, the thinner ends of the foremost ones for perhaps three fourths of an inch being very feeble, and occupying very little space. It was surprising to see the creature unfold and expand before our eyes, the wings gradually elongating, as it were, by their own gravity, and from time to time the insect assisting this operation by a slight shake. It was wonderful how it waxed and grew, revealing some new beauty every fifteen minutes, which I called S——— to see, but never losing its hold on the shoe. It looked like a young emperor just donning the most splendid ermine robes, the wings every moment acquiring greater expansion, and their at first wrinkled edge becoming more tense. At first, they appeared double, one within the other. But at last it advanced so far as to spread its wings completely, but feebly, when we approached. This process occupied several hours. It continued to hang to the shoe, with its wings ordinarily closed erect behind its back, the rest of the day, and at dusk, when apparently it was waving them preparatory to its evening flight, I gave it ether, and so saved it in a perfect state. As it lies, not outspread to the utmost, it is five and nine tenths inches by two and one fourth. . . .
The Azalea nudiflora now in its prime. What splendid masses of pink, with a few glaucous green leaves sprinkled here and there, just enough for contrast!
June 2, 1858. Half past eight a. m. Start for Monadnock. Between Shirley Village and Lunenburg I notice, in a meadow on the right hand, close to the railroad, the Kalmia glauca in bloom, as we are whirled past. Arrived at Troy station at five minutes past eleven, and shouldered our knapsacks, steering northeast to the mountain, its top some four miles off. It is a pleasant, hilly road, leading past a few farmhouses, where you already begin to sniff the mountain or at least up-country air. Almost without interruption we had the mountain in sight before us, its sublime gray mass, that antique, brownish-gray, Ararat color. Probably these crests of the earth are for the most part of one color in all lands,—that gray color of antiquity which nature loves, the color of unpainted wood, weather stain, time stain; not glaring nor gaudy; the color of all roofs, the color of all things that endure, the color that wears well; color of Egyptian ruins, of mummies, and all antiquity, baked in the sun, done brown,—not scarlet, like the crest of the bragging cock, but that hard, enduring gray, a terrene sky color, solidified air with a tinge of earth.
We left the road at a school-house, and, crossing a meadow, began to ascend gently through very rocky pastures. . . . The neighboring hills began to sink, and entering the wood we soon passed Fassett's shanty, he so busily at work inside that; He did not see us, and we took our dinner by the rocky brookside in the woods just above. A dozen people passed us early in the afternoon while we sat there,—men and women on their way down from the summit, this suddenly very pleasant day after a lowering one, having attracted them. . . .
Having risen above the dwarfish woods (in which mountain ash was very common) which reached higher up along the ravine we had traversed than elsewhere, and nearly all the visitors having descended, we proceeded to find a place for and to prepare our camp at mid p. m. We wished it to be near water, out of the way of the wind—which was northwest—and of the path, and also near to spruce-trees, for a bed. There is a good place, if you would be near the top, within a stone's-throw of it, on the north side, under some spruce-trees. We chose a sunken yard in a rocky plateau on the southeast side of the mountain, perhaps half a mile from the summit by the path, a rod and a half wide by many more in length, with a mossy and bushy floor about five or six feet beneath the general level, where a dozen black spruce-trees grew, though the surrounding rock was generally bare. There was a pretty good spring within a dozen rods, and the western wall shelved over a foot or two. We slanted two scraggy spruce-trees, long since bleached, from the western wall; and, cutting many spruce boughs with our knives, made a thick bed and walls on the two sides, to keep out the wind. Then, putting several poles transversely across our two rafters, we covered them with a thick roof of spruce twigs, like shingles. The spruce, though harsh for a bed, was close at hand, we cutting away one tree to make room. We crawled under the low eaves of this roof, about eighteen inches high, and our extremities projected about a foot.
Having left our packs here, and made all ready for the night, we went up to the summit to see the sun set. Our path lay through a couple of small swamps, and then up the rocks. Forty or fifty rods below the very apex, or quite on the top of the mountain, I saw a little bird flit from beneath a rock close by the path, where there were only a very few scattered dwarf black spruces about, and looking I found a nest with three eggs. It was the Fringilla hiemalis, which soon disappeared around a projecting rock. The nest was sunk in the ground by the side of a tuft of grass, and was pretty deep, made of much fine, dry grass or [sedge?]. The eggs were three, of a regular oval form, faint bluish-white, sprinkled with fine pale-brown dots, in two of the three condensed into a ring about the larger end. They had just begun to develop. The nest and tuft were covered by a projecting rock. Brewer says that only one nest is known to naturalists. We saw many of these birds flitting about the summit, perched on the rocks and the dwarf spruces, and disappearing behind the rocks. It is the prevailing bird now on the summit. They are commonly said to go to the fur countries to breed, though Wilson says that some breed in the Alleghanies. The New York Reports make them breed in the Catskills and some other mountains of that State. This was a quite interesting discovery. They probably are never seen in the surrounding low grounds at this season. The ancestors of this bird had evidently perceived in their flight northward that here was a small piece of arctic region containing all the conditions they require, coolness and suitable food, etc., etc., and so for how long have builded here. For ages they have made their home here with the Arenaria Groenlandica and Potentilla tridentata. They discerned arctic isles sprinkled in our southern sky. I did not see any of them below the rocky and generally bare portion of the mountain. It finds here the same conditions as in the north of Maine and in the far countries, Labrador mosses, etc. . . . Now that the season is advanced, migrating birds have gone to the extreme north or to the mountain tops. By its color it harmonized with the gray and brownish-gray rocks. We felt that we were so much nearer to perennial spring and winter. . . . We heard the hylodes peeping from a rainwater pool, a little below the summit, toward night. As it was quite hazy we could not see the shadow of the mountain well, and so returned just before sunset to our camp. We lost the path coming down, for nothing is easier than to lose your way here, where so little trail is left upon the rocks, and the different rocks and ravines are so much alike. Perhaps no other equal area is so bewildering in this respect as a rocky mountain summit, though it has so conspicuous a central point. Notwithstanding the newspaper and egg-shell left by visitors, these parts of nature are still peculiarly unhandseled and untracked. The natural terraces of rock are the steps of this temple, and it is the same whether it rises above the desert or a New England village. Even the inscribed rocks are as solemn as most ancient grave-stones, and nature reclaims them with bog and lichen. These sculptors seemed to me to court such alliance with the grave as they who put their names over tombstones along the highway. One, who was probably a blacksmith, had sculptured the emblems of his craft, an anvil and hammer, beneath his name. Apparently, a part of the regular outfit of mountain climbers is a hammer and cold chisel, and perhaps they allow themselves a supply of garlic also. But no Old Mortality will ever be caught renewing their epitaphs. It reminds one what kind of steep do climb the false pretenders to fame, whose chief exploit is the carriage of the tools with which to inscribe their names. For speaking epitaphs they are, and the mere name is a sufficient revelation of the character. They are all of one trade,—stone-cutters, defacers of mountain tops. "Charles and Lizzie!" Charles carried the sledge-hammer, and Lizzie the cold chisel. Some have carried up a paint pot, and painted their names on the rocks.
We returned to our camp, and got our tea in our sunken yard. While one went for water to the spring, the other kindled a fire. The whole rocky part of the mountain, except the extreme summit, is strewn with the relics of spruce-trees a dozen or fifteen feet long, and long since dead and bleached, so that there is plenty of dry fuel at hand. We sat out on the brink of the rocky plateau, near our camp, taking our tea in the twilight, and found it quite dry and warm there, though you would not have thought of sitting out at evening in the surrounding valleys. I have often perceived the warm air high on the sides of hills, while the valleys were filled with a cold, damp night-air, as with water, and here the air was warmer and drier the greater part of the night. We perceived no dew there this or the next night. This was our parlor and supper-room; in another direction was our wash-room. The chewink sang before night, and this, as I have before observed, is a very common bird on mountain tops; the wood-thrush sang, too, indefinitely far or near, a little more distant and unseen, as great poets are. It seems to love a cool atmosphere, and sometimes lingers quite late with us. Early in the evening the night-hawks were heard to spark and boom over these bare gray rocks, and such was our serenade at first as we lay on our spruce bed. We were left alone with the night-hawks. These withdrawn, bare rocks must be a very suitable place for them to lay their eggs, and their dry and unmusical, yet supra-mundane and spirit-like, voices and sounds gave fit expression to the rocky mountain solitude. It struck the very key-note of that stern, gray, and barren region. It was a thrumming of the mountain s rocky chords; strains from the music of chaos, such as were heard when the earth was rent and these rocks heaved up. Thus they went sparking and booming while we were courting the first access of sleep, and I could imagine their dainty, limping flight, inclining over the kindred rocks with a spot of white quartz in their wings. No sound could be more in harmony with that scenery. Though common below, it seemed peculiarly proper here. But ere long the night-hawks are stilled, and we hear only the sound of our companion's breathing, or of a bug in our spruce roof. I thought I heard once, faintly, the barking of a dog far down under the mountain.
A little after one a. m. I woke and found that the moon had risen, and heard some little bird near by sing a short strain of welcome to it, song-sparrow-like. Before dawn the night-hawks commenced their sounds again, which were as good as a clock to us, telling how the night got on. At length, by three o'clock, June 3d, the signs of dawn appear, and soon we hear the robin and the Fringilla hiemalis (its prolonged jingle as it sat on the top of a spruce), the chewink, and the wood-thrush. Whether you have slept soundly or not, it is not easy to lie abed under these circumstances, and we rose at half past three, in order to see the sun rise from the top and get our breakfast there. It was still hazy, and we did not see the shadow of the mountain until it was comparatively short, nor did we get the most distant views, as of the Green and White mountains, while we were there. . . .
We concluded to explore the whole rocky part of the mountain in this wise: to saunter slowly around it at about the height and distance from the summit, of our camp, or say half a mile, more or less, first going north, and returning by the western semicircle, and then exploring the east side, completing the circle, and returning over the summit at night. . . .
During this walk, in looking toward the summit, I first observed that its steep, angular projections and the brows of the rocks were the parts chiefly covered with dark brown lichens, umbilicaria, etc., as if they were to grow on the ridge and slopes of a man's nose only. It was the steepest and most exposed parts of the high rocks alone on which they grew, where you would think it most difficult for them to cling. They also covered the more rounded brows on the sides of the mountain, especially on the east side, where they were very dense, fine, crisp, and firm, like a sort of shagreen, giving a firm hold to the feet where it was needed. It was these that gave that Ararat brown color of antiquity to these portions of the mountain, which a few miles distant could not be accounted for, compared with the more prevalent gray. From the sky blue you pass through the misty gray of the rocks to this darker and more terrene color. The temples of the mountain are covered with lichens, which color it for miles. . . .
We had thus made a pretty complete survey of the top of the mountain. It is a very unique walk, and would be almost equally interesting to take if it were not elevated above the surrounding valleys. It often reminded me of my walks on the beach, and suggested how much both depend for their sublimity on solitude and dreariness. In both cases we feel the presence of some vast, titanic power. The rocks and valleys and bogs and rain pools of the mountain are so wild and unfamiliar still that you do not recognize the one you left fifteen minutes before. This rocky region, forming what you may call the top of the mountain, must be more than two miles long by one wide in the middle, and you would need to ramble round it many times before it would begin to be familiar. . . .
We proceeded to get our tea on the summit, in the very place where I had made my bed for a night some fifteen years before. . . . It was interesting to watch from that height the shadows of fair-weather clouds passing over the landscape. You could hardly distinguish them from forests. It reminded me of similar shadows seen on the sea from the high bank of Cape Cod beach. There the perfect equality of the sea atoned for the comparatively slight elevation of the bank. . . . In the valley or on the plain you do not commonly notice the shadow of a cloud unless you are in it, but on a mountain top or on a lower elevation in a plane country, or by the sea-side, the shadows of clouds flitting over the landscape are a never-failing source of amusement. It is commonly easy enough to refer a shadow to its cloud, since in one direction its form is perceived with sufficient accuracy. Yet I was surprised to observe that a long, straggling, downy cumulus, extending north and south a few miles east of us, when the sun was perhaps an hour high, cast its shadow along the base of the Peterboro hills, and did not fall on the other side, as I should have expected. It proved the clouds not so high as I had supposed. . . . It was pleasant enough to see one man's farm in the shadow of a cloud, which perhaps he thought covered all the Northern States, while his neighbor's farm was in sunshine.
June, 4th. At six a. m. we began to descend. As you are leaving a mountain and looking back at it from time to time, it is interesting to see how it gradually gathers up its slopes and spurs to itself into a regular whole, and makes a new and total impression.
June 2, 1859. Found, within three rods of Flint's Pond, a rose-breasted grossbeak's nest, and one fresh egg (three on the 4th). It was in a thicket where there was much catbriar, in a high blueberry bush, some five feet from the ground, in the forks of the bush, and of very loose construction, being made of the dead gray extremities of the catbriar with its tendrils (and some of them had dropped on the ground beneath), and this was lined, lined merely, with fine brown stems of weeds, like pinweeds, without any leaves or anything else, a slight nest on the whole. Saw the birds. The male uttered a very peculiar sharp clicking or squeaking note of alarm while I was near the nest. The egg is thickly spotted with reddish brown on a pale blue ground (not white ground, as Buonaparte and the New York ornithologist says), like a hermit thrush's, but rounder, very delicate.
June 2, 1860. A boy brought me yesterday a nest with two Maryland yellow-throat's eggs and two cow-bird's eggs in it, and said that they were all found together.
You see now in suitable shallow and warm places, where there is a sandy bottom, the nests of the bream begun, circular hollows recently excavated, weeds, confervæ, and other rubbish neatly removed, and many whitish root fibres of weeds left bare and exposed.
8 p. m. Up Assabet. Bats go over, and a king-bird very late. . . . Ever and anon we hear the stake-driver from a distance. There is a more distinct sound from animals than by day, and an occasional bull-frog's trump is heard. Turning the island, I hear a very faint and slight screwing or working sound once, and suspect a screech owl, which I afterwards see on an oak. I soon hear its mournful scream, probably to its mate; not loud now, but though within thirty or thirty-two rods, sounding a mile off. I hear it louder from my bed at night.
June 3, 1838. Walden.
"True, our converse a stranger is to speech; Only the practised ear can catch the surging words That break and die upon thy pebbled lips. Thy flow of thought is noiseless as the lapse of thy own waters, Wafted as is the morning mist up from thy surface, So that the passive soul doth breathe it in, And is infected with the truth thou wouldst express."
June 3, 1853. p. m. To Anursnack. By way of the Linnæa, which I find is not yet out. That thick pine wood is full of birds. . . . The painted cup is in its prime. It reddens the meadow, Painted Cup Meadow. It is a splendid show of brilliant scarlet, the color of the cardinal flower and surpassing it in mass and profusion. They first appear on the side of the hill, on dryer ground, half a dozen inches high, and the color is most striking then, when it is most rare and precious: but they now cover the meadow mingled with buttercups, etc., and many are more than eight inches high. I do not like the name. It does not remind me of a cup, rather of a flame when it first appears. It might be called flame flower, or scarlet tip. Here is a large meadow full of it, and yet very few in the town have ever seen it. It is startling to see a leaf thus brilliantly painted, as if its tip were dipped into some scarlet tincture, surpassing most flowers in intensity of color.
Seen from Anursnack the woods now appear full-leafed, smooth green, no longer hoary, and the pines a dark mulberry, not green. But you are still covered with lint as you go through the copses. Summer begins when the hoariness disappears from the forest as you look down on it, and gives place thus to smooth green, full and universal.
The song of the robin and the chirp (?) of the chip-bird now begin prominently to usher in and to conclude the day. The robin's song seems not so loud as in the early spring, perhaps be cause there are so many other sounds at present.
June 3, 1854. 9 a. m. To Fair Haven. Going up Fair Haven Hill, the blossoms of the huckleberries and blueberries imparted a sweet scent to the whole hillside. . . . On the pond played a long time with the bubbles which we made with our paddles on the smooth, perhaps unctuous surface, in which little hemispherical cases we saw ourselves and boat, small, black, and distinct, with a fainter reflection on the opposite side of the bubble (head to head). These lasted sometimes a minute before they burst. They reminded me more of Italy than of New England. . . . Thought how many times other similar bubbles, which had now burst, had reflected here the Indian, his canoe and paddle, with the same faithfulness that they now image me and my boat.
June 3, 1856. While running a line in the woods close to the water on the southwest side of Loring's Pond, I observed a chickadee sitting quietly within a few feet. Suspecting a nest, I looked and found it in a small, hollow maple stump, which was about five inches in diameter and two feet high. I looked down about a foot, and could just discern the eggs. Breaking off a little, I managed to get my hand in and took out some eggs. There were seven, making by their number an unusual figure, as they lay in the nest, a sort of egg rosette, a circle around, with one or more in the middle. In the mean while the bird sat silent, though rather restless, within three feet. The nest was very thick and warm, of average depth, and made of the bluish slate rabbit's (?) fur. The eggs were a perfect oval, five-eighths of an inch long, white, with small reddish-brown or rusty spots, especially about larger end, partly developed. The bird sat on the remaining eggs next day. I called off the boy in another direction that he might not find it.
Picked up a young wood tortoise about an inch and a half long, but very orbicular. Its scales very distinct, and, as usual, very finely and distinctly sculptured; but there was no orange on it, only buff or leather color on the sides beneath. So the one of similar rounded form and size, and with distinct scales, but faint yellow spots on back, must have been a young spotted turtle, I think, after all.
June 3, 1857. p. m. To White Cedar Swamp. . . . I see a branch of Salix lucida which has been broken off, probably by the ice in the winter, and come down from far up stream, and lodged, butt downward, amid some bushes, where it has put forth pink fibres from the butt end in the water, and is growing vigorously, though not rooted in the bottom. Thus detained, it begins to sprout and send its pink fibres down to the mud, and finally the water, getting down to the summer level, leaves it rooted in the bank. . . .
The pitch pine at Hemlocks is in bloom. The sterile flowers are yellowish, while those of the Pinus resinosa are dark purple. As usual, when I jar them, the pollen rises in a little cloud about the pistillate flowers and the tops of the twigs, there being a little wind. . . .
I have several friends and acquaintances who are very good companions in the house, or for an afternoon walk, but whom I cannot make up my mind to make a longer excursion with, for I discover all at once that they are too gentle manly in manners, dress, and all their habits. I see in my mind s eye that they wear black coats, considerable starched linen, glossy boots and shoes, and it is out of the question. It is a great disadvantage for a traveler to be a gentleman of this kind, he is so ill-treated, only a prey to landlords. It would be too much of a circumstance to enter a strange town or house with such a companion. You could not travel incognito. You might get into the papers. You should travel as a common man. If such a one were to set out to make a walking journey, he would betray himself at every step. Every one would see that he was trying an experiment, as plainly as they see that a lame man is lame by his limping. The natives would bow to him, other gentlemen would invite him to ride, conductors would warn him that this was the second-class car, and many would take him for a clergyman, and so he would be continually pestered and balked and run upon. He could not see the natives at all. Instead of going in quietly and sitting by the kitchen fire, he would be shown into a cold parlor, there to confront a fire-board and excite a commotion in a whole family. The women would scatter at his approach, and the husbands and sons would go right off to hunt up their black coats, for they all have them. They are as cheap as dirt. He would go trailing his limbs along the highways, mere bait for corpulent innholders, as a frog's leg is trolled along a stream to catch pickerel, and his part of the profits would be the frog's. No, you must be a common man, or at least travel as one, and then nobody will know you are there or have been there. I could not undertake a simple pedestrian excursion with one of these, because to enter a village or a hotel or a private house with such a one would be too great a circumstance, would create too great a stir. You would not go half as far with the same means, for the price of board and lodging would rise everywhere; so much you have to pay for wearing that kind of coat. Not that the difference is in the coat at all, for the character of the scurf is determined by that of the true liber beneath. Innkeepers, stablers, conductors, clergymen, know a true way faring man at first sight, and let him alone. It is of no use to shove your gaiter shoes a mile further than usual. Sometimes it is mere shiftlessness or want of originality; the clothes wear them. Sometimes it is egoism that cannot afford to be treated like a common man; they wear the clothes. They wish to be at least fully appreciated by every stage-driver and school-boy. They would like well enough to see a new place, perhaps, but then they would like to be regarded as important public personages. They would consider it a misfortune if their names were left out of the published list of passengers, because they came in the steerage, an obscurity from which they might never emerge.
June 3, 1860. These are the clear breezy days of early June, when the leaves are young and few, and the sorrel not yet in its prime. Perceive the meadow fragrance. . . . The roads are strewn with red maple seed. The pine shoots have grown generally from three to six inches, and begin to make a distinct impression, even at some distance, of white and brown above their dark green. The foliage of deciduous trees is still rather yellow-green than green. Tree-toads heard. There are various sweet scents in the air now. Especially as I go along an arbor-vitæ hedge, I perceive a very distinct fragrance like strawberries from it.
June 4, 1852. The birds sing at dawn. What sounds to be awakened by! If only our sleep, our dreams are such as to harmonize with the song, the warbling of the birds ushering in the day. They appear comparatively silent an hour or two later.
The dandelions are almost all gone to seed, and children may now see if "your mother wants you." . . . Lupines in prime. The Canada snapdragon, that little blue flower that lasts so long, grows with the lupines under Fair Haven. The early chickweed? with the star-shaped flower, cerastium? is common in fields now.
June 4, 1853. The date of the introduction of the Rhododendron maximum into Concord is worth preserving, May 16, 1853. They were small plants one to four feet high, some with large flower buds, twenty-five cents apiece, and I noticed the next day one or more in every front yard on each side of the street, and the in habitants out watering them. Said to be the most splendid native flower in Massachusetts. In a swamp in Medfield. I hear to-day that one in town has blossomed. . . . The clintonia is abundant in Hubbard's shady swamp, along by the foot of the hill, and in its prime. Look there for its berries. Commonly four leaves there with an obtuse point.—The lady's slipper leaf out, so rich, dark green and smooth, having several channels. The bull-frog now begins to be heard at night regularly, has taken the place of the hylodes.
Looked over the earliest town records at the clerk's office this evening, the old book containing grants of land. Am surprised to find such names as "Wallden Pond" and "Fair Haven" as early as 1653, and apparently '52; also under the first date, at least, "2d Division," the rivers as North and South rivers (not Assabet at that date), "Swamp Bridge," apparently on Back road, "Goose Pond," "Mr. Flint's Pond," "Nutt Meadow," "Willow Swamp," "Spruce Swamp," etc., etc. . . . It is pleasing to read these evergreen wilderness names, now, perchance, cleared fields and meadows, said to be redeemed. The 2d Division appears to have been a very large tract between the two rivers.
June 4, 1854. 8 a. m. Up Assabet with B——— and B———.
These warm and dry days which put Spring far behind, the sound of the crickets at noon has a new value and significance, so severe and cool. It is the iced cream of song. It is modulated shade.
I see now, here and there, deep furrows in the sandy bottom, two or three inches wide, leading from the middle of the river toward the side, and a clam on its edge at the end of each. There are distinct white lines. Plainly, then, about these times the clams are coming up to the shore, and I have caught them in the act.
p. m. To Walden. Now is the time to observe the leaves, so fair in color and so perfect in form. I stood over a sprig of chokeberry with fair and perfect glossy, green, obovate and serrate leaves in the woods this p. m., as if it were a rare flower. Now the various forms of oak leaves in sproutlands, wet-glossy, as if newly painted green and varnished, attract me. The chinquapin and black shrub oaks have such leaves as I fancy crowns were made of. And in the washing breeze the lighter under-sides begin to show, and a new light is flashed upon the year, lighting up and enlivening the landscape. Perhaps, on the whole, as most of the undersides are of a glaucous hue, they add to the glaucous mistiness of the atmosphere which now has begun to prevail. The mountains are hidden. The first drought may be beginning. The dust is powdery in the street, and we do not always have dew in the night.
In some cases Fame is perpetually false and unjust. Or rather I should say that she never recognizes the simple heroism of an action, but only as connected with its apparent consequence. She praises the interested energy of the Boston Tea Party, but will be comparatively silent about the more bloody and disinterestedly heroic attack on the Boston Court House, simply because the latter was unsuccessful. Fame is not just. She never finely or discriminatingly praises, but coarsely hurrahs. The truest acts of heroism never reach her ear, are never published by her trumpet.
June 4, 1855. p. m. To Hubbard's Close. White clover out probably some days; also red, as long. . . . It has just cleared off after this first rain of consequence for a long time, and now I observe the shadows of massive clouds still floating here and there in the peculiarly blue sky. These dark shadows on field and wood are the more remarkable by contrast to the light, yellow-green foliage, and where they rest on evergreens, they are doubly dark, like dark rings about the eyes of June. Great white-bosomed clouds, darker beneath, float through the clearest sky, and are seen against its delicious blue, such a sky as we have not had before. This is after the first important rain at this season. The song of birds is more lively and seems to have a new character; a new season has commenced. In the woods I hear the tanager, the chewink, and the redeye. It is fairly summer, and mosquitoes begin to sting in earnest. . . . There are now many potentillas ascendant, and the Erigeron bellidifolium I see sixteen inches high and quite handsome. . . . Now the crimson velvety leaves of the black oak, showing also a crimson edge on the downy undersides, are beautiful as a flower, and the more salmon-colored white oak.
The Linnæa borealis has grown an inch, but are not the flowers winter-killed? I see dead and blackened flower-buds. Perhaps it should have opened before. June 4, 1857. p. m. To Bare Hill. . . . One thing that chiefly distinguishes this season from three weeks ago is that fine serene undertone or earth-song, as we go by sunny brooks and hillsides, the creak of crickets, which affects our thoughts so favorably, imparting its own serenity. It is time now to bring our philosophy out of doors. Our thoughts pillow themselves unconsciously in the trough of this serene rippling sea of sound. Now first we begin to be peripatetics. No longer our ears can be content with the bald echoing earth, but everywhere recline on the spring-cushion of a cricket's chirp. These rills that ripple from every hillside become at length a universal sea of sound, nourishing our ears when we are most unconscious. . . . In the high pasture behind Jacob Baker's, soon after coming out of the wood, I scare up a baywing. She runs several rods close to the ground through the thin grass, and then lurks behind tussocks, etc. The nest has four eggs, dull pinkish white with brown spots. It is low in the ground, made of stubble lined with white horse-hair.
June, 4, 1860. The foliage of the elms over the street is dense and heavy already, comparatively. The black-poll warblers appear to have left, and some others, if not the warblers generally, with this first clear, bright, and warm peculiarly June weather, immediately after the May rain. About a month ago, after the stormy and cold winds of March and April, and the (in common years) rain and high water, the ducks, etc., left us for the north. Now there is a similar departure of the warblers, on the expansion of the leaves and advent of yet warmer weather. Their season with us, i. e., the season of those that go further, is when the buds are bursting, till the leaves are about expanded, and probably they follow these phenomena northward till they get to their breeding places, flying from tree to tree, i. e., to the next tree north which contains their insect prey. . . .
The clear brightness of June was well represented yesterday by the buttercups (Ranunculus bulbosus) along the roadside. Their yellow cups are glossy and varnished within, but not without. Surely there is no reason why the new butter should not be yellow now.
The time has now come when the laborers, having washed and put on their best suits, walk into the fields on the Sabbath, and lie on the ground at rest.
A cat-bird has her nest in our grove. We cast out strips of white cotton cloth, all of which she picked up and used. I saw a bird flying across the street with so long a strip of cloth, or the like, the other day, and so slowly, that at first I thought it was a little boy's kite, with a long tail. The cat-bird sings less now while its mate is sitting, or may be taking care of her young, and probably this is the case with robins and birds generally.
At the west spring of Fair Haven Hill I cast a bit of wood against a pitch-pine in bloom (perhaps not yet in bloom generally), and I see the yellow pollen dust blown away from it in a faint cloud, distinctly for three rods at least, and gradually rising all the while (rising five or six feet perhaps).
You may say that now, when most trees have fully expanded leaves, and the black ash fairly shows green, that the leafy season has commenced. (I see that I so called it May 27 and 31, 1853.)
June 5, 1850. To-night, after a hot day, I hear the first peculiar summer breathing of the frogs.
The other day, when I walked to Goodman's Hill, it seemed to me that the atmosphere was never so full of fragrance and spicy odors. There is a great variety in the fragrance of the apple blossoms as well as in their tints. Some are quite spicy. The air seemed filled with the odor of ripe strawberries, though it is quite too early for them. The earth was not only fragrant, but sweet and spicy, reminding us of Arabian gales, and what mariners tell of the Spice Islands. The first of June, when the lady's slipper and the wild pink have come out in sunny places on the hill-sides, then the summer is begun according to the clock of the seasons.
June 5, 1852. The medeola has blossomed in a tumbler. I seem to perceive a pleasant fugacious fragrance from its rather delicate, but in conspicuous, green flower. Its whorls of leaves of two stages are the most remarkable. I do not perceive the smell of the cucumber in its root.
To Harrington's, p. m. The silvery cinquefoil, Potentilla argentea, now. A delicate spring yellow, sunny yellow (before the dog-days) flower. None of the fire of autumnal yellows in it. Its silvery leaf is as good as a flower. White weed.
The constant inquiry which Nature puts is, "Are you virtuous? Then you can behold me." Beauty, fragrance, music, sweetness, and joy of all kinds are for the virtuous. That I thought when I heard the telegraph harp to-day.
The Viola lanceolata now, instead of the Viola blanda. In some places the leaves of the last are grown quite large. The side-saddle flower. The Thalictrum anemonoides still. The dwarf cornel by Harrington's road looks like large snow-flakes on the hill-side, it is so thick. It is a neat, geometrical flower, of a pure white, some times greenish, or green. Some poet must sing in praise of the bulbous Arethusa.
The lupine is now in its glory. It is the more important, because it occurs in such extensive patches, even an acre or more together, and of such a pleasing variety of colors, purple, pink or lilac, and white, especially with the sun on it, when the transparency of the flower makes its color changeable. It paints a whole hill-side with its blue, making such a field (if not meadow) as Proserpine might have wandered in. Its leaf was made to be covered with dew-drops. I am quite excited by this prospect of blue flowers in clumps, with narrow intervals, such a profusion of the heavenly, the Elysian color, as if these were the Elysian Fields. . . . That is the value of the lupine. The earth is blued with it. Yet a third of a mile distant I do not detect their color on the hill-side. Perchance because it is the color of the air. It is not distinct enough. You may have passed along here a fort night ago, and the hill-side was comparatively barren, but now you come, and these glorious redeemers appear to have flashed out here all at once. Who plants the seeds of lupines in the barren soil? Who watereth the lupines in the fields?
De Kay of the New York Report says the bream "is of no value as an article of food, but is often caught for amusement." I think it is the sweetest fish in our river. June 5, 1853. 5 a. m. By river to Nashawtuck. For the most part we are inclined to doubt the prevalence of gross superstition among the civilized ancients; whether the Greeks, for instance, accepted literally the mythology which we accept as matchless poetry. But we have only to be reminded of the kind of respect paid to the Sabbath as a holy day here in New England, and the fears which haunt those who break it, to see that our neighbors are the creatures of an equally gross superstition with the ancients. I am convinced that there is no very important difference between a New Englander's religion and a Roman's. We both worship in the shadow of our sins. They erect the temples for us. Jehovah has no superiority to Jupiter. The New Englander is "a pagan suckled in a creed out worn." Superstition has always reigned. It is absurd to think that these farmers, dressed in their Sunday clothes, proceeding to church, differ essentially in this respect from the Roman peasantry. They have merely changed the name and number of their gods. Men were as good then as they are now, and loved one another as much or as little. . . .
p. m. To Mason's Pasture.
The world is now full of verdure and fragrance, and the air comparatively clear (not yet the constant haze of the dog-days), through which the distant fields are seen, reddened with sorrel, the meadows wet-green, full of fresh grass, and the trees in their first beautiful, bright, untarnished, and unspotted green. May is the bursting into leaf and early flowering with much coolness and wet, and a few decidedly warm days ushering in summer; June, verdure and growth, with not intolerable, but agreeable heat. The young pitch pines in Mason's Pasture are a glorious sight now, most of the shoots grown six inches, so soft and blue-green, nearly as wide as high. It is Nature s front yard. The mountain laurel shows its red flower buds, but many shoots have been killed by frost.
There is a tract of pasture and wood land, orchard, and swamp in the north part of the town through which the old Carlisle road runs, which is nearly two miles square, without a single house, and with scarcely any cultivated land, four square miles. . . .
I perceive some black birch leaves with a beautiful crimson kind of sugaring along the furrows of the nerves, giving them a bright crimson color, either a fungus or the deposit of an insect. Seen through a microscope it sparkles like a ruby.
Nature is fair in proportion as the youth is pure. The heavens and the earth are one flower. The earth is the calyx; the heavens, the corolla. June 5, 1854. 6 p. m. To Cliffs. Now, just before sundown, a night-hawk is circling imp-like with undulating, irregular flight over the sproutland on the Cliff Hill with an occasional squeak, and showing the spot on his wings. He does not circle away from this place, and I associate him with two gray eggs somewhere on the ground beneath, and a mate there sitting. This squeak and occasional booming is heard in the evening air, while the stillness on the side of the village makes more distinct the increased hum of insects.
I see at a distance a king-bird, or blackbird, pursuing a crow lower down the hill, like a satellite revolving about a black planet. I have come to the hill to see the sun go down, to recover sanity, and put myself again in relation with Nature. I would fain drink a draught of Nature's serenity. Let deep answer to deep. Already I see reddening clouds reflected in the smooth mirror of the river, a delicate tint, far off and elysian, unlike anything in the sky as yet. The evergreens now look even black by contrast with the sea of fresh and light green foliage which surrounds them. Children have been to the cliffs and woven wreaths or chaplets of oak leaves which they have left, unconsciously attracted by the beauty of the leaves now. The sun goes down red and shorn of his beams, a sign of hot weather, as if the western horizon or the lower stratum of the air were filled with the hot dust of the day. The dust of his chariot eclipses his beams. I love to sit here and look off into the broad deep vale in which the shades of night are beginning to prevail. When the sun has set, the river becomes more white and distinct in the landscape. . . . I return by moonlight.
June 5, 1855. p. m. To Clam Shell by river. . . . I am much interested to see how Nature proceeds to heal the wounds where the turf was stripped off this meadow. There are large patches where nothing remained but pure black mud, nearly level, or with slight hollows like a plate in it. This the sun and air had cracked into irregular polygonal figures, a foot, more or less, in diameter. The whole surface of these patches is now covered with a short, soft, and pretty dense moss-like vegetation springing up and clothing it. The little hollows and the cracks are filled with a very dense growth of reddish grass or sedge, about an inch high, the growth in the cracks making pretty regular figures as in a carpet, while the intermediate spaces are very evenly, but much more thinly covered with minute sarothra and whitish Gnaphalium uliginosum. Thus the wound is at once scarred over. Apparently the seeds of that grass were heavier and were washed into the hollows and cracks. It is not likely that the owner has sprinkled seed here.
June 5, 1856. Everywhere now in dry pitch-pine woods stand the red lady's slippers over the red pine leaves on the forest floor, rejoicing in June, with their two broad, curving green leaves (some even in swamps), upholding their rich, striped, drooping sack.
A cuckoo's nest with three light bluish-green eggs, partly developed, short, with rounded ends, nearly of a size; in a black cherry-tree that had been lopped three feet from the ground, amid the thick sprouts; of twigs, lined with green leaves, pine needles, etc., and edged with some dry, branchy weeds. The bird stole off silently at first.
[June 10. The cuckoo of June 5 has deserted her nest, and I find the fragments of eggshells in it; probably because I found it.]
June 5, 1857. I am interested in each contemporary plant in my vicinity, and have attained to a certain acquaintance with the larger ones. They are cohabitants with me of this part of the planet, and they bear familiar names. Yet how essentially wild they are, as wild really as those strange fossil plants whose impression I see on my coal. Yet I can imagine that some race gathered those too with as much admiration and knew them as intimately as I do these, that even they served for a language of the sentiments. Stigmariæ stood for a human sentiment in that race's flower language. Chickweed or a pine-tree is but little less wild. I assume to be acquainted with these, but what ages between me and the tree whose shade I enjoy. It is as if it stood substantially in a remote geological period.
June 5, 1860. . . . When I open my window at night, I hear the peeping of the hylodes distinctly through the rather cool rain (as also some the next a. m.), but not of toads; more hylodes than in the late very warm evenings when the toads were heard most numerously. The hylodes evidently love the cooler nights of spring. The toads, the warm days and nights of May. Now it requires a cool (and better if wet) night, which will silence the toads, to make the hylodes distinct.
June 6, 1852. First devil's needles in the air, and some smaller bright green ones on flowers. The earliest blueberries are now forming as green berries. The wind already injures the just expanded leaves, tearing them and making them turn black. . . . The side-flowering sandwort, an inconspicuous white flower like a chickweed.
June 6, 1853, 4.30 a. m. To Linnæa Woods. The Linnæa just out. Corydalis glauca, a delicate glaucous plant rarely met with, with delicate flesh-colored and yellow flowers, covered with a glaucous bloom, on dry rocky hills. Perhaps it suggests gentility. Set it down as early as middle of May or earlier. . . .
This morning I hear the note of young bluebirds in the air, which have recently taken wing, and the old birds keep up such a warbling and twittering as remind me of spring.
According to S———'s account, she must have seen an emperor moth, "pea-green with some thing like maple keys for tail," in a lady's hand in Cambridge to-day. So one may have come out of the chrysalid seen May 23d.
p. m. To Conanturn by boat. . . . Blue-eyed grass now begins to give that slaty blue tint to meadows.
The deep shadow of Conantum Cliff and of mere prominences in the hills, now at mid-afternoon as we row by, is very interesting. It is the most pleasing contrast of light and shade that I notice. Methinks that in winter a shadow is not attractive. The air is very clear, at least as we look from the river valley, and the land scape all swept and brushed. We seem to see to some depth into the side of Fair Haven Hill.
The side-saddle flowers are now in their prime. There are some very large ones hereabouts, five inches in diameter when you flatten out their petals, like great dull-red roses. Their petals are of a peculiar red, and the upper sides of their calyx leaves, of a shiny leather red or brown red, are agreeable.
A slippery elm, Ulmus fulva, on Lee's Cliff, red elm. Put it with the common. It has large rough leaves and straggling branches, a rather small, much-spreading tree, with an appearance between the common elm and ironwood.
The aspect of the dry rocky hills already indicates the rapid revolution of the seasons. The spring, that early age of the world, following hard on the reign of winter, and the barren rocks yet dripping with it, is past. How many plants have already dried up, lichens and algæ, which we can still remember as if belonging to a former epoch, saxifrage, crowfoot, anemone, columbine for the most part, etc. It is Lee's Cliff I am on. There is a growth confined to the damp and early spring. How dry and crisp the turf feels there now, not moist with melted snows, remembering, as it were, when it was the bottom of the sea. How wet-glossy the leaves of the red oak now, fully expanded. They shine as when the sun comes out after rain.
I find on a shelf of the rock the Turrìtis stricta, now gone to seed, two feet two inches high, . . . pods upright and nearly three inches long, linear and flat, leaves decidedly lanceolate or linear. Some minute, imperfect, unexpanded flowers, still on it, appear as if they would have been yellowish.
In the very open park in rear of the rocks on the hill-top, where lambkill and huckleberries and grass alternate, came to one of those handsome, round, mirror-like pools, a rod or two in diameter, and surrounded with a border of fine weeds, such as you frequently meet with on the top of springy hills. Though warm and muddy at bottom, they are very beautiful and glassy, and look as if they were cool springs, so high, exposed to the light, yet so wild and fertile; as if the fertility of the lowlands was transferred to the summit of the hills. They are the kind of mirrors at which the huntresses in the golden age arranged their toilets, which the deer frequented and contemplated their branching horns in.
June 6, 1854. I perceive the sweetness of the locust blossoms fifteen or twenty rods off, as I go down the street. p. m. To Assabet bathing place and return by Stone Bridge. . . . The painted tortoises are now-a-days laying their eggs. I see where they have just been digging in the sand or gravel in a hundred places on the southerly sides of hills and banks near the river, but they have laid their eggs in very few. I find none whole. Here is one which has made its hole with the hind part of its shell and its tail, apparently. . . . They are remarkably circumspect, and it is difficult to see one working. They stop instantly and draw in their heads, and do not move till you are out of sight, and then probably try a new place. They have dabbled in the sand and left the marks of their tails all around.
The black oaks, birches, etc., are covered with ephemerae of various sizes and colors, with one, two, or three, or no streamers, ready to take wing at evening, i. e., about seven. I am covered with them and much incommoded.
The air over the river meadows is saturated with sweetness, but I look round in vain for the source, on the yellowish sensitive fern and the reddish eupatorium springing up.
From time to time at mid-afternoon, is heard the trump of a bull-frog, like a triton's horn. I am struck now by the large, light-purple, Viola palmatas rising above the grass near the river.
Of oak leaves, there is the small, firm, few-lobed, wholesome, dark-green shrub oak leaf, light beneath.
The more or less deeply cut, and more or less dark green, or sometimes reddish, black oak, not light beneath. These two, bristle-pointed. The very wet-glossy, obovatish, sinuate-edged swamp white oak, light beneath.
The small narrower, sinuated, and still more chestnut-like chinquapin, a little lighter beneath.
All these, more or less glossy, especially the swamp-white and shrub.
Then the dull green, sometimes reddish, more or less deeply cut or fingered, unarmed, round-lobed white oak, not light beneath.
The last three without bristles.
I remember best the sort of rosettes made by the wet-glossy leaves at the ends of some swamp white oak twigs; also the wholesome and firm dark green shrub oak leaves, and some glossy and finely cut light green, black? or red? or scarlet? oak leaves.
I see some devil's needles, a brilliant green with white and black, or open work and black wings, some with clear black wings, some with white bodies and black wings, etc.
6.30 a. m. Up Assabet. . . . Beautiful the hemlock fans now, broad at the ends of the lower branches which slant down, seen in the shade against the dark hillside; such is the contrast of the very light green just put forth on their edges, with the old, very dark. I feast my eyes on it.
Sphynx moths about the flowers at evening, a night or two. June 6th, 1855. You see the dark eye and shade of June on the river as well as on land, and a dust-like lint on river, apparently from the young leaves and bud scales, covering the waters which begin to be smooth, and imparting a sense of depth.
Blue-eyed grass, may be several days, in some places.
White weed, two or three days.
June 6, 1856. p. m. To Andromeda Ponds. Cold, mizzling weather. In the large circular hole or cellar at the turn-table on the railroad, which they are repairing, I see a star-nosed mole endeavoring in vain to bury himself in the sandy and gravelly bottom. Some inhuman fellow has cut off his tail. He is blue-black, with much fur, a very thick, plump animal, apparently some four inches long, but he occasionally shortens himself one third or more; looks as fat as a fat hog. His fore-feet are large, and set side-wise, or on their edges, and with these he shovels the earth aside, while his large, long, starred snout is feeling the way and breaking ground. I see deep indentations in his fur, where his eyes are situated, and once I saw distinctly his eye open, a dull, blue? black bead, not very small; and he very plainly noticed my movements two feet off. He was using his eye as plainly as any creature that I ever saw. Yet it is said to be a question whether their eyes are not merely rudimentary. . . . I carried him along to plowed ground where he buried himself in a minute or two.
How well-suited the lining of a bird's nest not only to the comfort of the young, but to keep the eggs from, breaking, fine elastic grass stems or root fibres, pine needles, hair, or the like. These tender and brittle things, which you can hardly carry in cotton, lie there without harm.
June 6, 1857. 8 a. m. To Lee's Cliff by river. . . . This is June, the month of grass and leaves. Already the aspens are trembling again, and a new summer is offered me. I feel a little fluttered in my thoughts, as if I might be too late. Each season is but an infinitesimal point. It no sooner comes than it is gone. It has no duration. It simply gives a tone and hue to my thought. Each annual phenomenon is a reminiscence and prompting. Our thoughts and sentiments answer to the revolutions of the seasons as two cog-wheels fit into each other. We are conversant with only one point of contact at a time, from which we receive a prompting and impulse, and instantly pass to a new season or point of contact. A year is made up of a certain series and number of sensations and thoughts, which have their language in nature. Now I am ice, now I am sorrel. Each experience reduces itself to a mood of the mind. I see a man grafting, for instance. What this imports chiefly is not apples to the owner or bread to the grafter, but a certain mood or train of thought to my mind. That is what the grafting is to me. Whether it is anything at all, even apples or bread, to anybody else, I cannot swear, for it would be worse than swearing through glass. I only see those other facts as through a glass, darkly. . . .
Krigias, with their somewhat orange yellow, spot the dry hills all the forenoon, and are very common, but as they are closed in the afternoon, they are but rarely noticed by walkers.
June 6, 1860. . . . 6.30 p. m. Up Assabet. . . . Not only the foliage begins to look dark and dense, but many ferns, are fully grown, as the cinnamon and interrupted, and being curved over the bank and shore, add to the leafy impression of the season. The Osmunda regalis looks later and more tender, reddish brown still. It preserves its habit of growing in circles, though it may be on a steep bank, and one half the circle in the water. . . .
The trees commonly are not yet so densely leaved but that I can see through them, e. g., I see through the red oak and the bass (below Dome Kock), looking toward the sky. They are a mere network of light and shade after all. The oak may be a little the thicker. The white ash is considerably thinner than either. . . .
How full is the air of sound at sunset and just after! Especially at the end of a rain storm. Every bird seems to be singing in the wood across the stream, and there are the hylodes and the sounds of the village. Beside, sounds are more distinctly heard. Ever and anon we hear a few sucks or strokes from the bittern or stake driver, whenever we lie to, as if he had taken the job of extending all the fences up the river, to keep the cows from straying. We hear but three or four toads in all, to-night, but as many hylodes as ever. It is too cool, both water and air (especially the first), after the rain for the toads. . . .
As the light is obscured after sunset, the birds rapidly cease their songs, and the swallows cease to flit over the river. Soon the bats are seen taking the places of the swallows, and flying back and forth like them, and commonly a late king-bird will be heard twittering still in the air. After the bats, or half an hour after sunset, the water bugs begin to spread themselves over the stream (though fifteen minutes earlier not one was seen without the pads), now when it is difficult to see them or the dimples they make, except you look toward the reflected western sky. It is evident that they dare not come out thus by day for fear of fishes, and probably the nocturnal or vespertinal fishes, as eels and pouts, do not touch them. I think I see them all over Walden by day, and if so, it may be because there is not much danger from fishes in that very deep water.
June 7, 1841. . . . We are accustomed to exaggerate the immobility and stagnation of those eras [the early Oriental], as of the waters which leveled the steppes; but those slow revolving "years of the gods" were as rapid to all the needs of virtue as these bustling and hasty seasons. Man stands to revere, he kneels to pray. Methinks history will have to be tried by new tests to show what centuries were rapid and what slow. Corn grows in the night. Will this bustling era detain the future reader longer? Will the earth seem to have conversed more with the heavens during these times? Who is writing better Vedas? How science and art spread and flourished, how trivial conveniences were multiplied, that-which is the gossip of the world is not recorded in them, and if they are left out of our scriptures, too, what will remain?
Since the battle of Bunker Hill we think the world has not been at a stand-still.
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