How much of beauty - of color, as well as form - on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us! No one but a botanist is likely to distinguish nicely the different shades of green with which the open surface of the earth is clothed, - not even a landscape-painter if he does not know the species of sedges and grasses which paint it. With respect to the color of grass, most of those even who attend peculiarly to the aspects of nature only observe that it is more or less dark or light, green or brown, or velvety, fresh or parched, etc. But if you are studying grasses you look for another and different beauty, and you find it, in the wonderful variety of color, etc., presented by the various species.
P. M. - To Assabet over Nawshawtuct.
There is more shadow under the edges of woods and copses now. The foliage appears to have increased so that the shadows are heavier, and perhaps it is this that makes it cooler, especially morning and evening, though it may be as warm as ever at noon. Saw but one Lysimachia stricta left in the meadows, the meadow-sweet meadows. The green cranberries are half formed. The absence of flowers, the shadows, the wind, the green cranberries, etc., are autumnal. The river has risen a foot or so since its lowest early in the month. The water is quite cool. Methinks it cannot be so warm again this year. After that torrid season the river rises in the first rains and is much cooled. The springs are mostly buried on its shore. The high blueberry has a singularly cool flavor. The alder locust again reminds me of autumn. Can that low blackberry which has, I think, a rather wrinkled leaf and bears dense masses of lively berries now, commonly in cool moist ground, be the same with the common? Eupatorium purpureum has just begun, and probably the ovate, etc., but I suspect no entire corymb is out.
The man who does not grow rigid with years and experience! Where is he? What avails it to grow hard merely? The harder you are, the more brittle really, like the bones of the old. How much rarer and better to grow mellow! A sort of stone fruit the man bears commonly; a bare stone it is, without any sweet and mellow pericarp around it. It is like the peach which has dried to the stone as the season advanced; it is dwindled to a dry stone with its almond. In presence of one of these hard men I think: “How brittle! How easily you would crack! What a poor and lame conclusion!” I can think of nothing but a stone in his head. Truly genial men do not grow [hard]. It is the result of despair, this attitude of resistance. They behave like men already driven to the wall.
It did me good this afternoon to see the large soft-looking roots of alders occupying a small brook in a narrow shady swamp, laid bare at a distance from their base, covered with white warts sometimes on a green ground. With what rapacity they grasped, with what tenacity they held to life! also filling the wet soil with innumerable fibres, ready to resist the severest drought.
The black willows are the children of the river. They do not grow far from the water, not on the steep banks which the river is wearing into, not on the unconverted shore, but on the bars and banks which the river has made. A bank may soon get to be too high for it. It grows and thrives on the river-made shores and banks, and is a servant which the river uses to build up and defend its banks and isles. It is married to the river. Where an eddy is depositing a sand-bar, anon to be elevated into an island or bank, there especially the black willow flourishes. There are certain trees and other plants, as this, the white maple, mikania, etc. which do not grow away from the riverside. The river has not simply to [sic] their base, but they accompany it, wherever it goes.
The Rice boy brings me what he thought a snipe’s egg, recently taken from a nest in the Sudbury meadows. It is of the form of a rail’s egg, but is not whitish like mine, but olive-colored with dark-brown spots. Is it the sora rail? He has also a little egg, as he says taken out of a thrasher’s nest, apparently one third grown.
Flagg says that the chimney swallow is sometimes abroad “the greater part of the night;” is informed by Fowler that the rose-breasted grosbeak often sings in the light of the moon.
P. M. - Water three and a half inches above summer level. I measure the rapidity of the river’s current. At my boat’s place behind Channing’s, a bottle sunk low in the water floats one hundred feet in five minutes; one hundred feet higher up, in four and a half minutes. (I think the last the most correct.) It came out a rod and a half ahead of two chips.
We looked down on the unpretending buildings and grounds of the Kineo House, as on a little flat map, oblong-square, at our feet. . . .
It suggested to me how unexplored still are the realms of nature, that what we know and have seen is always an insignificant portion. We may any day take a walk as strange as Dante’s imaginary one to L’Inferno or Paradiso.
Saw at Hydropeltis Meadow a small bullfrog in the act of swallowing a young but pretty sizable apparently Rana palustris, such as now hop about, an inch and a half long. He took it down head foremost, and as the legs were slowly taken in, - stuffing himself, - for the legs were often straightened out, - I wondered what satisfaction it could be to the larger to have that cold slimy fellow, entire, lying head to tail within him! I sprang to make him disgorge, but it was too late to save him. Though I tossed the bullfrog out of the water, the palustris was entombed. So little while had he been in the light when he fell into that recess!