This is a very warm and serene evening, and the surface of the pond is perfectly smooth except where the skaters dimple it, for at equal intervals they are scattered over its whole extent, and, looking west, they make a fine sparkle in the sun. Here and there is a thistle(?)-down floating on its surface, which the fishes dart at, and dimple the water, - delicate hint of approaching autumn, when the first thistle-down descends on some smooth lake’s surface, full of reflections, in the woods, sign to the fishes of the ripening year. These white faery vessels are annually wafted over the cope of their sky. Bethink thyself, O man, when the first thistle-down is in the air. Buoyantly it floated high in air over hills and fields all day, and now, weighed down with evening dews, perchance, it sinks gently to the surface of the lake. Nothing can stay the thistle-down, but with September winds it unfailingly sets sail. The irresistible revolution of time. It but comes down upon the sea in its ship, and is still perchance wafted to the shore with its delicate sails. The thistle-down is in the air. Tell me, is thy fruit also there? Dost thou approach maturity? Do gales shake windfalls from they tree? But I see no dust here as on the river.
First frost in our garden. Passed in boat within fifteen feet of a great bittern, standing perfectly still in the water by the riverside, with the point of its bill directly up, as if it knew that from the color of its throat, etc., it was much less likely to be detected in that position, near weeds.
As I am now returning over Lily Bay, I hear behind me a singular loud stertorous sound which I thought might have been made by a cow out of order, twice sounded. Looking round, I saw a blue heron flying low, about forty rods distant, and have no doubt the sound was made by him.
The ghost-horse (Spectrum) is seen nowadays, - several of them. All these high colors in the stems and leaves and other portions of plants answer to some maturity in us. I presume if I am the wiser for having lived this season through, such plants will emblazon the truth of my experience over the face of nature, and I shall be aware of a beauty and sweetness there.
Has not the mind, too, its harvest? Do not some scarlet leaves of thought come scatteringly down, though it may be prematurely, some which, perchance, the summer’s drought has ripened, and the rain loosened? Are there no purple reflections from the culms of thought in my mind?
Soaking rain last night, straight down. When the wind stirs after the rain, leaves that were prematurely ripe or withered begin to strew the ground on the leeward side. Especially the scarlet leaves of the cultivated cherry are seen to have fallen. Their change, then, is not owing to drought, but commonly a portion of them ripens thus early, reminding us of October and November. When, as I go to the post-office this morning, I see these bright leaves strewing the moist ground on one side of the tree and blown several rods from it into a neighboring yard, I am reminded that I have crossed the summit ridge of the year and have begun to descend the other slope. The prospect is now toward winter. These are among the first-fruits of the leafy harvest.
The sharp whistling note of a downy woodpecker, which sounds rare; perhaps not heard since spring.
Think what refuge there is for me before August is over, from college commencements and society that isolates me! I can skulk amid the tufts of purple wood grass on the borders of the Great Fields! Wherever I walk this afternoon the purple-fingered grass stands like a guide-board and points my thoughts to more poetic paths than they have lately travelled.
In Dennis’s field this side the river, I count about one hundred and fifty cowbirds about eight cows, running before their noses and in odd positions, awkwardly walking with a straddle, often their heads down and tails up a long time at once, occasionally flying to keep up with a cow, over the heads of the others, and following off after a single cow. They keep close to the cow’s head and feet, and she does not mind them; but when all went off in a whirring (rippling?) flock at my approach, the cow (about whom they were all gathered) looked off after them for some time, as if she felt deserted.
P. M. - To Conantum.
The small sempervirens blackberry in prime in one place. Aster puniceus and Diplopappus umbellatus, how long? Calamagrostis coarctata not quite, end of Hubbard’s meadow wood-path. Panicum virgatum, say two or three weeks. Leersia, or cut-grass, some time, roadside, Corner road, by brook.
Saturday. To Walden to bathe at 5:30 A. M. Traces of the heavy rains in the night. The sand and gravel are beaten hard by them. Three or four showers in succession. But the grass is not so wet as after an ordinary dew. The Verbena hastata at the pond has reached the top of its spike, a little in advance of what I noticed yesterday; only one or two flowers are adhering. At the commencement of my walk I saw no traces of fog, but after detected fogs over particular meadows and high up some brooks’ valleys, and far in the Deep Cut the wood fog. First muskmelon this morning.
The other day, as I was going by Messer’s, I was struck with the pure whiteness of a tall and slender buttonwood before his house. The southwest side of it for some fifty or more feet upward, as far as the outer bark had recently scaled off, was as white, as distinct and bright a white, as if it had been painted, and when I put my finger on it, a white matter, like paint not quite dry, came off copiously, so that I even suspected it was paint. When I scaled off a piece of bark, the freshly exposed surface was brown. This white matter had a strong fungus-like scent, and this color is apparently acquired after a little exposure to the air. Nearly half the tree was thus uninterruptedly white as if it had been rounded and planed and then painted. No birch presents so uniformly white a surface.