Thursday. The pine woods seen from the hilltops, now that the ground is covered with snow, are not green but a dark brown, greenish-brown perhaps. You see dark patches of wood. There are still half a dozen fresh ripe red and glossy oak leaves left on the bush under the Cliffs.
Walden not yet more than half frozen over.
The woodpeckers’ holes in the apple trees are about a fifth of an inch deep or just through the bark and half an inch apart. They must be the decaying trees that are most frequented by them, and probably their work serves to relieve and ventilate the tree and, as well, to destroy its enemies.
The barberries are shrivelled and dried. I find yet cranberries hard and not touched by the frost.
It is quite mild and pleasant to-day. I saw a little green hemisphere of moss which looked as if it covered a stone, but, thrusting my cane into it, I found it was nothing but moss, about fifteen inches in diameter and eight or nine inches high. When I broke it up, it appeared as if the annual growth was marked by successive layers half an inch deep each. The lower ones were quite rotten, but the present year’s quite green, the intermediate white. I counted fifteen or eighteen. It was quite solid, and I saw that it continued solid as it grew by branching occasionally, just enough to fill the newly gained space, and the tender extremities of each plant, crowded close together, made the firm and compact surface of the bed. There was a darker line separating the growths, where I thought the surface had been exposed to the winter. It was quite saturated with water, though firm and solid.
Saw to-day, while surveying in the Second Division woods, a singular round mound in a valley, made perhaps sixty or seventy years ago. Cyrus Stow thought it was a pigeon-bed, but I soon discovered the coal and that it was an old coal-pit. I once mistook one in the Maine woods for an Indian mound. The indestructible charcoal told the tale. I had noticed singular holes and trenches in the former wood, as if a fox had been dug out. The sun has probably been let in here many times, and this has been a cultivated field; and now it is clothed in a savage dress again. The wild, rank, luxuriant place is where mosses and lichens abound. We find no heroes’ cairns except those of heroic colliers, who once sweated here begrimed and dingy, who lodged here, tending their fires, who lay on a beetle here, perchance, to keep awake.
I used to strike with a paddle on the side of my boat on Walden Pond, filling the surrounding woods with circling and dilating sound, awaking the woods, “stirring them up,” as a keeper of a menagerie his lions and tigers, a growl from all. All melody is a sweet echo, as it were coincident with [the] movement of our organs. We wake the echo of the place we are in, its lumbering music.
To-day it has been finger-cold. Unexpectedly I found ice by the side of the brooks this afternoon nearly an inch thick. Prudent people get in their barrels of apples to-day. The difference of the temperature of various localities is greater than is supposed. If I was surprised to find ice on the sides of the brooks, I was much more surprised to find quite a pond in the woods, containing an acre or more, quite frozen over so that I walked across it. It was in a cold corner, where a pine wood excluded the sun. In the larger ponds and the river, of course, there is no ice yet. It is a shallow, weedy pond. I lay down on the ice and looked through at the bottom. The plants appeared to grow more uprightly than on the dry land, being sustained and protected by the water. Caddis-worms were everywhere crawling about in their handsome quiver-like sheaths or cases.
October must be the month of ripe and tinted leaves. Throughout November they are almost entirely withered and sombre, the few that remain. In this month the sun is valued. When it shines warmer or brighter we are sure to observe it. There are not so many colors to attract the eye. We begin to remember the summer. We walk fast to keep warm. For a month past I have sat by a fire.
My companion said he would drink when the boat got under the bridge, because the water would be cooler in the shade, though the stream quickly passes through the piers from shade to sun again. It is something beautiful, the act of drinking, the stooping to imbibe some of this widespread element, in obedience to instinct, without whim. We do not so simply drink in other influences.
It is pleasant to have been to a place by the way a river went.