Tag Archives: spring

A single gentle rain — “if we lived in the present always” (Walden 194)

“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: Continue reading

The first sparrow of spring! (Walden 193)

The first sparrow of spring!

The year beginning with younger hope than ever!

The faint silvery warblings
heard over the partially bare and moist fields from
the bluebird, the song sparrow, and the red-wing,
as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell!

What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions,
and all written revelations?

…The grass flames up on the hillsides like a spring fire…
as if the earth sent forth an inward heat to greet the returning sun;
not yellow but green is the color of its flame…

— Henry David Thoreau, from “Spring,” Walden Continue reading

Thoreau’s Spring, a time to admire last year’s dead vegetation (Walden 191)

In early spring it’s always pleasant to see the new shoots springing up from barely-thawed soil, or sometimes poking through snow. Even before they amount to much they’re full of the promise of summer.

But who on earth spends time admiring the dead vegetation left over from the previous year?

Thoreau, of course.

“When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few warm days had dried its surface somewhat, it was pleasant to compare the first tender signs of the infant year just peeping forth with the stately beauty of the withered vegetation which had withstood the winter — life-everlasting, goldenrods, pinweeds, and graceful wild grasses, more obvious and interesting frequently than in summer even, as if their beauty was not ripe till then…”

He has a point. Even grasses, which we often mistakenly consider weak or insubstantial, stand up remarkably well under winter conditions. Henry was most impressed with the wool-grass (Scirpus cyperinus).

“Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to hear this king described as a rude and boisterous tyrant; but with the gentleness of a lover he adorns the tresses of Summer.”


(About  “A Year in Walden”)

Thaw (Walden 190)


with his gentle persuasion

is more powerful than

Thor with his hammer.

The one melts,

The other but breaks in pieces.

— Henry David Thoreau, from “Spring,” Walden

(About  “A Year in Walden”)

The first signs of spring (Walden 188)

“One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisure and opportunity to see the Spring come in…  I am on the alert for the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or the striped squirrel’s chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters. On the 13th of March, after I had heard the bluebird, song sparrow, and red-wing, the ice was still nearly a foot thick.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Spring,” Walden

Thoreau’s journal entries reveal that he got tired of winter just like anyone else, and that he was keenly aware of any sign — no matter how subtle — that spring was on its way. Continue reading

The ice is melting at Walden Pond (Walden 187)

While we’re still in winter 2015, we begin the chapter “Spring” in Walden and all but a thin slice of pages of the book are behind us. This is the last chapter before “Conclusion.” Thoreau begins with a long description of the ice melting from the pond. Here is just a bit:

“In spring the sun not only exerts an influence through the increased temperature of the air and earth, but its heat passes through ice a foot or more thick, and is reflected from the bottom in shallow water, and so also warms the water and melts the under side of the ice, at the same time that it is melting it more directly above, making it uneven, and causing the air bubbles which it contains to extend themselves upward and downward until it is completely honeycombed, and at last disappears suddenly in a single spring rain. Ice has its grain as well as wood, and when a cake begins to rot or ‘comb,’ that is, assume the appearance of honeycomb, whatever may be its position, the air cells are at right angles with what was the water surface.”

I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating: Have you noticed how most of the things Thoreau describes in detail are things you wouldn’t see if you went to the pond for only a short visit? What he describes requires prolonged, close observation, the insights you earn from living with a landscape for an extended period of time, in this case through the changing seasons. This, too, is part of the book’s message.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)

Count the turtles

Holmes Lake, Lincoln, Nebraska, April 20, 2014

Holmes Lake, Lincoln, Nebraska, April 20, 2014

Spring is here, at least where I live. I drifted in my kayak closer and closer to these turtles but they didn’t move, even when I was practically on top of them.

Do yourself a favor and get outdoors. There’s so much going on this time of year, but you have to get out there and look for it. It’s amazing how much fun you can have at a city park with an inflatable kayak and a point-and-shoot camera.

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