Did I not hear a tree sparrow this forenoon?
The Viburnum nudum around the edge of the swamp, on the northern edge of the warm bays in sunny and sheltered places, has just expanded, say two days, the two diverging leafets in the sun, the most noticeable leafiness here now, just spotting and enlivening the dead, dark, bare twigs, under the red blossoms of the maples.
It is a day for many small fuzzy gnats and other small insects. Insects swarm about the expanding buds.
The viburnum buds are so large and long, like a spear-head, that they are conspicuous the moment their two leafets diverge and they are lit up by the sun. They unfold their wings like insects and arriving warblers. These, too, mark the season well. You see them a few rods off in the sun, through the stems of the alders and maples.
Return to Concord. At Natural History Rooms in Boston. Have I seen the least bittern? It is so brown above and yellowish, woolly, white beneath. The American goshawk is slate above, gray beneath; the young spotted dark and white beneath, and brown above. Fish hawk, white beneath. Young of marsh hawk, reddish-brown above, iron-rusty beneath. Summer duck with a crest. Dusky duck, not black, but rather dark brown. The velvet ducks I saw, hardly large enough for this. My whiter ducks may be the Merganser castor, or the red-breasted.
How promising a simple, unpretending, quiet, somewhat reserved man, whether among generals or scholars or farmers! How rare an equanimity and serenity which are an encouragement to all observers! Some youthfulness, some manliness, some goodness. Like Tarbell, a man apparently made a deacon on account of some goodness, and not on account of some hypocrisy and badness as usual.
It is remarkable that the rise and fall of Walden, though unsteady, and whether periodical or merely occasional, are not completed but after many years. I have observed one rise and part of two falls. It attains its maximum slowly and surely, though unsteadily. It is remarkable that this fluctuation, whether periodical or not, requires many years for its accomplishment, and I expect that a dozen or fifteen years hence it will again be as low as I have ever known it.
The Salix alba begins to leaf, and the catkins are three quarters of an inch long. The balm-of-Gilead is in bloom, about one and a half or two inches long, and some hang down straight. Quite warm to-day. In the afternoon the wind changed to east, and apparently the cool air from the sea condensed the vapor in our atmosphere, making us think it would rain every moment; but it did not till midnight.
To-day the air is full of birds; they attend the opening of the buds. The trees begin to leaf, and the leaf-like wings of birds are in the air. The buds start, then the insects, then the birds. Saw probably a pigeon hawk skim straight and low over field and wood, and another the next day apparently dark slate-color. It is warm and still, almost sultry, as if there might be a thunder-shower before night. Now look down on Fair Haven. How pleasant in spring a still, overcast, warm day like this, when the water is smooth! The sweet-gale in blossom, forming islets surrounded by water, on the meadow, looks like sere brown leaves left on. At the Cliff the Arabis lævigata is just out to-day; the honeysuckle will be, say, the very earliest, to-morrow. A barberry bush quite forwardly leafing under the rock, and a young apple. The early gooseberry quite green.
I got to-day and yesterday the first decided impression of greenness beginning to prevail, summer-like. It struck me as I was going past some opening and by chance looked up some valley or glade, - greenness just beginning to prevail over the brown or tawny. It is a sudden impression of greater genialness in the air, when this greenness first makes an impression on you at some turn, from blades of grass decidedly green, though thin, in the sun and the still, warm air, on some warm orchard-slope perhaps. It reminds you of the time, not far off, when you will see the dark shadows of the trees there and buttercups spotting the grass. Even the grass begins to wave, in the 19th-of-April fashion. When the wind is still cool elsewhere, I glance up some warm southern slope, sunny and still, where the thinly scattered blades of green grass, lately sprung, already perchance begin to wave, and I am suddenly advertised that a new season has arrived. This is the beginning of that season which, methinks, culminates with the buttercup and wild pink and Viola pedata. It begins when the first toad is heard.
There is a season for everything, and we do not notice a given phenomenon except at that season, if, indeed, it can be called the same phenomenon at any other season. There is a time to watch the ripples on Ripple Lake, to look for arrowheads, to study the rocks and lichens, a time to walk on sandy deserts; and the observer of nature must improve these seasons as much as the farmer his. So boys fly kites and play ball or hawkie at particular times all over the State. A wise man will know what game to play to-day, and play it. We must not be governed by rigid rules, as by the almanac, but let the season rule us. The moods and thoughts of man are revolving just as steadily and incessantly as nature’s. Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or the like of this. Where the good husbandman is, there is the good soil. Take any other course, and life will be a succession of regrets. Let us see vessels sailing prosperously before the wind, and not simply stranded barks. There is no world for the penitent and regretful.
A very handsome little beetle, deep, about a quarter of an inch long, with pale-golden wing-cases, artificially and handsomely marked with burnished dark-green marks and spots, one side answering to the other; front and beneath burnished dark-green; legs brown or cinnamon-color. It was on the side of my boat. Brought it home in a clam’s shells tied up, - a good insect-box.
The Salix purpurea in prime, out probably three or four days; say 19th. Arbor-vitæ, how long?
P. M. - In a fine rain, around Walden.
I go by a Populus grandidentata on the eastern sand slope of the Deep Cut just after entering, whose aments (which apparently here began to shed pollen yesterday) in scattered clusters at the ends of the bare twigs, but just begun to shed their pollen, not hanging loose and straight yet, but curved, are a very rich crimson, like some ripe fruit, as mulberries, seen against the sand. I cannot represent the number in a single cluster, but they are much the handsomest now before the crimson anthers have burst, and are all the more remarkable for the very open and bare habit of the tree.
How can a man be a wise man, if he doesn’t know any better how to live than other men? - if he is only more cunning and intellectually subtle? Does Wisdom work in a treadmill? Does Wisdom fail? or does she teach how to succeed by her example? Is she merely the miller who grinds the finest logic? Did Plato get his living in a better way or more successfully than his contemporaries? Did he succumb to the difficulties of life like other men? Did he merely prevail over them by indifference, or by assuming grand airs? or find it easier to live because his aunt remembered him in her will?