I think that I speak impartially when I say that I have never met with a stream so suitable for boating and botanizing as the Concord, and fortunately nobody knows it. I know of reaches which a single country-seat would spoil beyond remedy, but there has not been any important change here since I can remember. The willows slumber along its shore, piled in light but low masses, even like the cumuli clouds above. We pass hay-makers in every meadow, who may think that we are idlers. But Nature takes care that every nook and crevice is explored by some one. While they look after the open meadows, we farm the tract between the river’s brinks and behold the shores from that side. We, too, are harvesting an annual crop with our eyes, and think you nature is not glad to display her beauty to us?
It is far more independent to travel on foot. You have to sacrifice so much to the horse. You cannot choose the most agreeable places in which to spend the noon, commanding the finest views, because commonly there is no water there, or you cannot get there with your horse. New Hampshire being a more hilly and newer State than Massachusetts, it is very difficult to find a suitable place to camp near the road, affording water, a good prospect, and retirement. We several times rode on as much as ten miles with a tired horse, looking in vain for such a spot, and then almost invariably camped in some low, unpleasant spot. There are very few, scarcely any, lanes, or even paths and bars along the road. Having got beyond the range of the chestnut, the few bars that might be taken down are long and heavy planks or slabs, intended to confine sheep, and there is no passable road behind. And beside, when you have chosen a place one must stay behind to watch your effects, while the other looks about. I frequently envied the independence of the walker, who can spend the midday hours and take his lunch in the most agreeable spot on his route. The only alternative is to spend your noon at some trivial inn, pestered by flies and tavern loungers.
See a song sparrow and a pigeon woodpecker. Dr. Bryant tells of the latter picking holes in blinds, and also in his barn roof and sides in order to get into it; holes in the window sashes or casings as if a nail had been driven into them.
Asked a sailor at the wharf how he distinguished a whaler. He said by the “davits,” large upright timbers with sheaves curving over the sides, thus: (illustration) to hold up the boats (a merchantman has only a few and small at the stern); also by the place for the man to stand at masthead (crosstrees, I should say they were) and look out for whales, which you do not see on a merchant-ship; i. e., the crosstrees of the latter are very slight, of the whaler somewhat like this: (illustration)
I think that the change to some higher color in a leaf is an evidence that it has arrived at a late and more perfect and final maturity, answering to the maturity of fruits, and not to that of green leaves, etc., etc., which merely sere a purpose. The word “ripe” is thought by some to be derived from the verb “to reap,” according to which that is ripe which is ready to be reaped. The fall of the leaf is preceded by a ripe old age.
In the path below the Cliff, I see some blue-stemmed goldenrod turned yellow as well as purple. The Jersey tea is fallen, all but the terminal leaves. These, however, are the greenest and apparently least changed of any indigenous plant, unless it be the sweet-fern. Withered leaves generally, though they remain on the trees, are drooping. As I go through the hazel bushes toward the sun, I notice the silvery light reflected from the fine down on their tender twigs, this year’s growth. This apparently protects them against the winter. The very armor that Nature puts on reminds you of the foe she would resist. This a November phenomenon, - the silvery light reflected from a myriad of downy surfaces.
Yesterday was a still and cloudy day. This is another rainy day. On the whole, we have had a good deal of fair weather the last three months. Mr. Buttrick, the market man, says he has been to Boston twenty-seven times since the first of August, and has not got wet till to-day, though he rides in an open wagon.
I guessed at Goodwin’s age on the 1st. He is hale and stout and looks younger than he is, and I took care to set him high enough. I guessed he was fifty-five, and he said that if he lived two or three months longer he would be fifty-six. He then guessed at my age, thought I was forty. He thought that Emerson was a very young-looking man for his age, “But,” said he, “he has not been out o’ nights as much as you have.”
Some horse-chestnuts are still thickly leaved and yellow, not withered.
A dark and windy night the last. It is a new value when darkness amounts to something positive. Each morning now, after rain and wind, is fresher and cooler, and leaves still green reflect a brighter sheen.
Minott told me yesterday that he had never seen the seashore but once, and that was Noddle’s Island in the War of 1812.
The garden is alive with migrating sparrows these mornings. The cat comes in from an early walk amid the weeds. She is full of sparrows and wants no more breakfast this morning, unless it be a saucer of milk, the dear creature. I saw her studying ornithology between the corn-rows.
The cat sleeps on her head! What does this portend? It is more alarming than a dozen comets. How long prejudice survives! The big-bodied fisherman asks me doubtingly about the comet seen these nights in the northwest, - if there is any danger to be apprehended from that side! I would fain suggest that only he is dangerous to himself.
I have not seen nor heard a bobolink for some days at least, numerous as they were three weeks ago, and even fifteen days. They depart early. I hear a nuthatch occasionally, but it reminds me of winter.
P. M. - To Walden.
I paddle about the pond, for a rarity. The eriocaulon, still in bloom there, standing thinly about the edge, where it is stillest and shallowest, in the color of its stem and radical leaves is quite in harmony with the glaucous water. Its radical leaves and fine root-fibres form a peculiar loose but thick and continuous carpet or rug on the sandy bottom, which you can life up in great flakes, exposing the fine white beaded root-fibres. This evidently affords retreats for the fishes, musquash, etc., etc., and you can see where it has been lifted up into galleries by them. I see one or two pickerel poised over it. They, too, are singularly greenish and transparent, so as not to be easily detected, only a little more yellowish than the water and the eriocaulon; ethereal fishes, not far from the general color of heart-leaf and target-weed, unlike the same fish out of water.