Rained hard during the night. At 6 P. M. the river has risen to half an inch below summer level, having been three to four inches below summer level yesterday morning. I hear the sprayey note of toads now more than ever, after the rain.
When first I had sheltered myself under the rock, I began at once to look out on the pond with new eyes, as from my house. I was at Lee’s Cliff as I had never been there before, had taken up my residence there, as it were. Ordinarily we make haste away from all opportunities to be where we have instinctively endeavored to get. When the storm was over where I was, and only a few thin drops were falling around me, I plainly saw the rear of the rain withdrawing over the Lincoln woods south of the pond, and, above all, heard the grand rushing sound made by the rain falling on freshly green forest, a very different sound when thus heard at a distance from what it is when we are in the midst of it. In the latter case we are soothed by a gentle pattering and do not suspect the noise which a rainstorm makes. This Cliff thus became my house. I inhabited it. When, at length, it cleared up, it was unexpectedly early and light, and even the sun came out and shone warm on my back as I went home. Large puddles occupied the cart-paths and rose above the grass in the fields.
With all this opportunity, this comedy and tragedy, how near all men come to doing nothing! It is strange that they did not make us more intense and emphatic, that they do not goad us into some action. Generally, with all our desires and restlessness, we are no more likely to embark in any enterprise than a tree is to walk to a more favorable locality. The seaboard swarms with adventurous and rowdy fellows, but how unaccountably they train and are held in check! They are as likely to be policemen as anything. It exhausts their wits and energy merely to get their living, and they can do no more. The Americans are very busy and adventurous sailors, but all in somebody’s employ, - as hired men. I have not heard of one setting out in his own bark, if only to run down our own coast on a voyage of adventure or observation, on his own account.
For three quarters of an hour the sun is a great round red ball in the west, reflected in the water; at first a scarlet, but as it descends growing more purple and crimson and larger, with a blue bar of a cloud across it; still reflected in the water, two suns, one above the other, below the hilly bank; as if it were a round hole in the cope of heaven, through which we looked into a crimson atmosphere. If such scenes were painted faithfully they would be pronounced unnatural.
The Sylvia striata are the commonest bird in the street, as I go to the post-office, for several days past. I see six (four males, two females) on one of our little fir trees; are apparently as many more on another close by. The white bars on the wings of both sexes are almost horizontal. I see them thus early and late on the trees about our houses and other houses the 27th and 28th and 29th also, - peach trees, etc., but especially on the firs. They are quite tame. I stand within seven or eight feet while they are busily pecking at the freshly bursting or extending glaucous fir twigs, deliberately examining them on all sides, and from time to time one utters a very fine and sharp, but faint tse tse, tse tse, tse tse, with more or less of these notes. I hear the same in the woods. Examining the freshly starting fir twigs, I find that there are a great many lice or aphides amid the still appressed leafets or leaves of the buds, and no doubt they are after these. Occasionally a summer yellowbird is in company with them, about the same business. They, the black-polls, are very numerous all over the town this spring. The female has not a black, but rather, methinks, a slate-colored crown, and is a very different bird, - more of a yellowish brown.
Eleocharis acicularis, not long, on the low exposed bank of the river; if [?] it is that that greens the very muddy banks.
J. Farmer found a marsh hawk’s nest on the 16th, - near the Cooper’s hawk nest, - with three fresh eggs.
To my surprise the Kalmia glauca almost all out; perhaps began with rhodora. A very fine flower, the more interesting for being early. The leaf say just after the lambkill. I was wading through this white spruce swamp just to look at the leaves. The more purple rhodora rose here and there above the small andromeda, so that I did not at first distinguish the K. glauca. When I did, probably my eyes at first confounded it with the lambkill, and I did not remember that this would not bloom for some time. There were a few leaves just faintly started. But at last my eyes and attention both were caught by those handsome umbels of the K. glauca, rising, one to three together, at the end of bare twigs, six inches or more above the level of the andromeda, etc., together with the rhodora. Umbels, one and one half inches [in] diameter, of five to eighteen flowers on red threads three quarters to an inch long, at first deep rose-color, after pale rose. Twigs bare except two or three small old leaves close to the end of the dry-looking twigs. Flowers not arranged in whorls about the twig, but rising quite above it. The larger flowers about nine-sixteenths inch diameter. Flowers somewhat larger, methinks, and more terminal than lambkill. The whole about two feet high in spagnum. The lambkill is just beginning to be flower-budded.
The yards are now full of little spires of June-grass, with a brownish tinge but not quite in flower, trembling in the breeze. You see a myriad of fine parallel perpendicular stems about a foot high against the lighter green ground. It has shot up erect suddenly, and gives a new aspect to our yards. The earth wears a new and greener vest.
As I sit just above the northwest end of the Cliff, I see a tanager perched on one of the topmost twigs of a hickory, holding by the tender leafets, now five inches long, and evidently come to spy after me, peeping behind a leafet. He is between me and the sun, and his plumage is incredibly brilliant, all aglow. It is our highest-colored bird, - a deep scarlet (with a yellower reflection when the sun strikes him), in the midst of which his pure-black wings look high-colored also. You can hardly believe that a living creature can wear such colors. A hickory, too, is the fittest perch for him.
Sunday. A warm, drizzling day, the tender yellow leafets now generally conspicuous, and contrasting with the almost black evergreens which they have begun to invest. The foliage is never more conspicuously a tender yellow than now. This lasts a week from this date, and then begins to be confounded with the older green. We have had rain for three or four days, and hence the tender foliage is the more yellow.
Swallows fly low. The Ranunculus bulbosus is abundant.
I see that by the very severe frost of about the 15th, or full of the moon, a great many leaves were killed, as young oaks, cultivated grapes, butternuts, ferns, etc., etc., which now show brown or blackish.