“A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring.”
— Henry David Thoreau, from “Spring,” Walden
This is one of the most eloquent statements about living in the present that I have ever read. Thoreau goes on to praise the season’s power of renewal:
“In a pleasant spring morning all men’s sins are forgiven. Such a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return.”
And the rest of the paragraph is full of religious and biblical language: “savor of holiness,” “joy of his Lord,” and talk of God’s pardon, offered freely to all. A few pages later, writing about fishing on the first day of spring, he says, “There needs no stronger proof of immortality” and quotes the Bible (a rare thing for him).
We know Henry well enough by now not to take this too literally. He asks why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation — this renewal and forgiveness isn’t something you find in a church, it’s part of the natural cycle. To the extent that Thoreau has a religion, nature is his religion.
He ends this section with quotes from Chinese philosopher Meng-tse and Roman poet Ovid; the main point here seems to be that these two writers from very different ancient cultures also had this sense of renewal and redemption that they associated with spring and with morning.
(About “A Year in Walden”)