Out of the Past

Thoreau
December 24







Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
American Writer

Skating on the Pond by Marie-Francois-Regis Gignoux
Skating on the Pond by Marie-Francois-Regis Gignoux

Abraham Lincoln The Rail Splitter chopping wood
Abraham Lincoln The Rail Splitter chopping wood

Close-up of a burning candle on a Christmas tree
Close-up of a burning candle on a Christmas tree

Expect Great Things
Expect Great Things
The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau

The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau
The Journal of Henry David Thoreau: 1837-1861
Kindle Edition

"Wild Apples" and Other Natural History Essays
"Wild Apples"
and Other Natural History Essays

Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
Henry Thoreau
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers / Walden; Or, Life in the Woods / The Maine Woods / Cape Cod

Searching for Thoreau
Searching for Thoreau
On the Trails and Shores of Wild New England



         

The rain of yesterday concluded with a whitening of snow last evening, the third thus far. Today is cold and quite windy.

Walden almost entirely open again. Skated across Flint's Pond; for the most part smooth but with rough spots where the rain had not melted the snow. From the hill beyond I get an arctic view northwest. The mountains are of a cold slate-color. It is as if they bounded the continent toward Behring's Straits.

In Weston's field, in springy land on the edge of a swamp, I counted thirty-three or four of those large silvery-brown cocoons within a rod or two, and probably there are many more about a foot from the ground, commonly on the main stem - though sometimes on a branch close to the stem - of the alder, sweet-fern, brake, etc., etc. The largest are four inches long by two and a half, bag-shaped and wrinkled and partly concealed by dry leaves, - alder, ferns, etc., - attached as if sprinkled over them. This evidence of cunning in so humble a creature is affecting, for I am not ready to refer it to an intelligence which the creature does not share, as much as we do the prerogatives of reason. This radiation of the brain. The bare silvery cocoons would otherwise be too obvious. The worm has evidently said to itself : "Man or some other creature may come by and see my casket. I will disguise it, will hang a screen before it." Brake and sweet-fern and alder leaves are not only loosely sprinkled over it and dangling from it, but often, as it were, pasted close upon and almost incorporated into it.

Saw Therien yesterday afternoon chopping for Jacob Baker in the rain. I heard his axe half a mile off, and also saw the smoke of his fire, which I mistook for a part of the mist which was drifting about. I asked him where he boarded. At Shannon's. He asked the price of board and said I was a grass boarder, i. e. not a regular one. Asked him what time he started in the morning. The sun was up when he got out of the house that morning. He heard Flint's Pond whooping like cannon the moment he opened the door, but sometimes he could see stars after he got to his chopping-ground. He was working with his coat off in the rain. He said he often saw gray squirrels running about and jumping from tree to tree. There was a large nest of leaves close by. That morning he saw a large bird of some kind. He took a French paper to keep himself in practice - not for news; he said he didn't want news. He had got twenty-three or twenty-four of them, had got them bound and paid a dollar for it, and would like to have me see it. He hadn't read it half; there was a great deal of reading in it, by gorry. He wanted me to tell him the meaning of some of the hard words.

How much had he cut ? He wasn't a-going to kill himself. He had got money enough. He cut enough to earn his board. A man could not do much more in the winter. He used the dry twigs on the trees to start his fire with, and some shavings which he brought in his pocket. He frequently found some fire still in the morning. He laid his axe by a log and placed another log the other side of it. I said he might have to dig it out of a snowdrift, but he thought it would not snow.

Described a large hawk killed at Smith's (which had eaten some hens) its legs "as yellow as a sovereign," apparently a goshawk. He has also his beetle and wedges and whetstone.

In the town hall this evening, my white spruce tree, one of the small ones in the swamp, hardly a quarter the size of the largest, looked double its size, and its top had been cut off for want of room. It was lit with candles, but the starlit sky is far more splendid to-night than any saloon.

December 24, 1853

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