Seen through this clear, sparkling, breezy air, the fields, woods, and meadows are very brilliant and fair. The leaves are now hard and glossy (the oldest), yet still comparatively fresh, and I do not see a single acre of grass that has been cut yet. The river meadows on each side the stream, looking toward the light, have an elysian beauty. A light-yellow plush or velvet, as if some gamboge had been rubbed into them. They are by far the most bright and sunny-looking spots, such is the color of the sedges which grow there, while the pastures and hillsides are dark-green and the grain-fields glaucous-green. It is remarkable that the meadows, which are the lowest part, should have this lightest, sunniest, yellowest look.
Dogdayish and showery, with thunder.
At 6 P. M. 91˚, the hottest yet, though a thunder-shower has passed northeast and grazed us, and, in consequence, at 6:30 or 7, another thunder-shower comes up from the southwest and there is a sudden burst from it with a remarkably strong, gusty wind, and the rain for fifteen minutes falls in a blinding deluge. I think I never saw it rain so hard. The roof of the depot shed is taken off, many trees torn to pieces, the garden flooded at once, corn and potatoes, etc., beaten flat. You could not see distinctly many rods through the rain. It was the very strong gusts added to the weight of the rain that did the mischief. There was little or no wind before the shower; it belonged wholly to it. Thus our most violent thunder-shower followed the hottest hour of the month.
Now it is starlight; perhaps that dark cloud in the west has concealed the evening star before. Yet I hear a chewink, veery, and wood thrush. Nighthawks and whip-poor-wills, of course. A whip-poor-will whose nest, perchance, I am near, on the side of the Cliff, hovers in the dusky air about ten feet from me, now on this side, then on that, on quivering wings, inspecting me, showing the white on its wings. It holds itself stationary for a minute. It is the first warm night for a week, and I hear the toads by the river very numerous. First there was sundown, then starlight. Starlight! That would be a good way to mark the hour, if we were precise. That is an epoch, when the last traces of daylight have disappeared and the night (nox) has fairly set in. Is not the moon a mediator? She is a light-giver that does not dazzle me.
I picked a handful or two of blueberries, though strawberries are now in their prime. They follow hard upon the first red amelanchier berries. Blueberries and huckleberries deserve to be celebrated, such simple, wholesome, universal fruits, food for the gods and for aboriginal men. They are so abundant that they concern our race much. Tournefort called some of this genus, at least, Vitis Idœa, which apparently means the vine of Mount Ida. I cannot imagine any country without this kind of berry. Berry of berries. On which men live like birds. Still covering our hills as when the red men lived here. Are they not the principal wild fruit? Huckleberry puddings and pies, and huckleberries and milk, are regular and important dishes.
Still hazy and dogdayish.
Go to the menagerie in the afternoon.
At 5 P. M., - river ten and a half inches above summer level, - cross the meadow to the Hemlocks.
The blue-eyed grass, now in its prime, occupies the drier and harder parts of the meadow, where I can walk dry-shod, but where the coarser sedge grows and it is lower and wetter there is none of it. I keep dry by following this blue guide, and the grass is not very high about it. You cross the meadows dry-shod by following the winding lead of the blue-eyed grass, which grows only on the firmer, more elevated, and drier parts.
The hemlocks are too much grown now and are too dark a green to show the handsomest bead-work by contrast.
Methinks roses oftenest display their high colors, colors which invariably attract all eyes and betray them, against a dark ground, as the dark green or the shady recesses of the bushes and copses, where they show to best advantage. Their enemies do not spare the open flower for an hour. Hence, if for no other reason, their buds are most beautiful. Their promise of perfect and dazzling beauty, when their buds are just beginning to expand, - beauty which they can hardly contain, - as in most youths, commonly surpasses the fulfillment of their expanded flowers. The color shows fairest and brightest in the bud. The expanded flower has no higher or deeper tint than the swelling bud exposed. This raised a dangerous expectation. The season when wild roses are in bloom should have some preeminence, methinks.
The leaves generally are eaten when young and tender, as the leaves of melons (squashes) as soon as they expand a little. When they become more hard and glazed they are less edible. Hence this and earlier is the season for galls of various kinds. The pads are already extensively eaten. I do not know what eats those shot-like lines, but I see the pads, especially of the yellow lilies, with many little black or dark-brown grubs on them (no doubt hatched on them), annular, and yellow beneath, and now eating them but not eating through, making crinkled lines all over them.
River at 7 A. M. fifteen inches above summer level, having fallen.
A sparrow’s nest with three fresh eggs in a hollow of a willow, two and a half feet from ground, at my boat’s place. The bird has the usual marks, except perhaps the spot on the breast is more obvious, and the lines over the eyes more white and distinct. The eggs have a much bluer-white ground than those I have, and beside are but slightly spotted with brown except toward the larger end. The chip of the bird is metallic, not the hoarse chip of the spring song sparrow.
Monday. Took the steamer Acorn [?] about 9 A. M. for Boston, in the fog. The captain said that the mate to the whale taken on the 17th had been about the steamer all night. It was a thick fog with some rain, and we saw no land nor a single sail, till near Minot’s Ledge. The boat stopped and whistled once or twice. The monotony was only relieved by the numerous petrels, those black sea-swallows, incessantly skimming over the undulated [surface], a few inches above and parallel with it, and occasionally picking some food from it. Now they dashed past our stern and now across our bows, as if we were stationary, though going at the rate of a dozen knots an hour. It is remarkable what great solitudes there may be on this bay, notwithstanding all its commerce, and going from Boston to Provincetown you might be wrecked in clear weather, without being seen by any passing vessel. Once, when the fog lifted a little and the boat was stopped, and the engine whistled, I thought that I saw an open sea without an object for three or four miles at least. We held on, and it suddenly thickened up again, and yet in three minutes, notwithstanding the fog, we saw the light-boat right ahead. This shows how deceptive and dangerous fogs are. I should have said we might have run half an hour without danger of striking any object.
I do not believe that there is any part of this town on which the pollen of the pine may not fall. The time to examine the ponds this year was, I should say, from the 15th to the 20th of this month. Looking at the trees to-day, I find that the pines are now effete, especially the pitch pine, the sterile flowers now turned reddish. The white pine is lighter-colored, and all but a very little indeed is effete. In the white pine it is a dense cluster of twenty or thirty little flowers about the base of this year’s shoot.