In Audubon’s Animals: -
Sigmodon hispidum, Say and Ord.
Marsh-Rat of Lawson’s Carolina.
Wood-Rat, Bartram’s Travels in Florida.
Arvicola hispidus, Godman.
Arvicola hortensis of Griffith and of Cuvier.
The plate of this resembles my mouse of December 13th.
Both for bodily and mental health, court the present. Embrace health wherever you find her. A clump of birches raying out from one centre make a more agreeable object than a single tree. The rosettes in the ice, as Channing calls them, now and for some time have attracted me.
Monday. Not a particle of ice in Walden to-day. Paddled across it. I took my new boat out. A black and white duck on it, Flint’s and Fair Haven being frozen up. Ground bare. River open. Countless birches, white pines, etc., have been killed within a year or two about Goose Pond by the high water. The dead birches have broken in two in the middle and fallen over. In some coves where the water is shallow, their wrecks make quite a dense thicket. Found chestnuts quite plenty to-day.
I passed by the pitch pine that was struck by lightning. I was impressed with awe on looking up and seeing that broad, distinct spiral mark, more distinct even than when made eight years ago, as one might groove a walking-stick, - mark of an invisible and intangible power, a thunderbolt, mark where a terrific and resistless bolt came down from heaven, out of the harmless sky, eight years ago. It seemed a sacred spot. I felt that we had not learned much since the days of Tullus Hostilius. It at length shows the effect of the shock, and the woodpeckers have begun to bore it on one side.
I does seem as if Nature did for a long time gently overlook the prophanity of man. The wood still kindly echoes the strokes of the axe, and when the strokes are few and seldom, they add a new charm to a walk. All the elements strive to naturalize the sound.
The same sun has not yet shined on me and my friend, - He would hardly have to look at me to recognize me - but glimmer with half-shut eye, like some friendly distant taper when we are benighted. - I do not talk to any intellect in nature, but am presuming an infinite heart somewhere - unto which I play - Nature has many rhymes, but friendship is the most heroic of all.
I admire those old root fences which have almost entirely disappeared from tidy fields, - white pine roots got out when the neighboring meadow was a swamp, - the monuments of many a revolution. These roots have not penetrated into the ground, but spread over the surface, and, having been cut off four or five feet from the stump, were hauled off and set up on their edges for a fence. The roots are not merely interwoven, but grown together into solid frames, full of loopholes like Gothic windows of various sizes and all shapes, triangular and oval and harp-like, and the slenderer parts are dry and resonant like harp-strings. They are rough and unapproachable, with a hundred snags and horns which bewilder and balk the calculation of the walker who would surmount them. The part of the trees above ground presents no such fantastic forms. Here is one seven paces, or more than a rod, long, six feet high in the middle, and yet only one foot thick, and two men could turn it up, and in this case the roots were six or nine inches thick at the extremities. The roots of pines growing in swamps grow thus in the form of solid frames or rackets, and those of different trees are interwoven with all so that they stand on a very broad foot and stand or fall together to some extent before the blasts, as herds meet the assault of beasts of prey with serried front. You have thus only to dig into the swamp a little way to find your fence, - post, rails, and slats already solidly grown together and of material more durable than any timber. How pleasing a thought that a field should be fenced with the roots of the trees got out in clearing the land a century before!
The squirrel, rabbit, fox tracks, etc., attract the attention in the new-fallen snow; and the squirrel nests, bunches of grass and leaves high in the trees, more conspicuous if not larger now, or the glimpse of a meadow (?) mouse, give occasion for a remark. You cannot go out so early but you will find the track of some wild creature. Returning home just after the sun had sunk below the horizon, I saw from N. Barrett’s a fire made by boys on the ice near the Red Bridge, which looked like a bright reflection of a setting sun from the water under the bridge, so clear, so little lurid, in this winter evening air.
What a grovelling appetite for profitless jest and amusement our countrymen have! Next to a good dinner, at least, they love a good joke, - to have their sides tickled, to laugh sociably, as in the East they bathe and are shampooed. Curators of lyceums write to me: -
DEAR SIR, - I hear that you have a lecture of some humor. Will you do us the favor to read it before the Bungtown Institute?