Massachusetts

Henry David Thoreau Goes Looking for Signs of Spring

On the afternoon of March 9, 1855, Henry David Thoreau roamed the woods looking for signs of spring. It was a cloudy, rain-threatening day in Concord, Mass.

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

So far it had been a mild winter. Snow hadn’t whitened the ground since Feb. 9.

That morning Thoreau painted the bottom of his boat. The day before he had taken it out of the cellar and turned it up in the yard to let the seams open before he caulked it. The blue river, he wrote, had almost no ice on it and ‘admonishes me to be swift.’

Thoreau catalogued his observations in his journal., published as The Writings Of Henry David Thoreau: Journal, Ed. By B. Torrey, 1837-1846, 1850-nov. 3, 1861.

On that March afternoon in 1855, Thoreau took a hike to the Andromeda Ponds, kettle hole bogs on the border of Concord and Lincoln.  There he saw the minute seeds of the Andromeda calyculata scattered over the melting ice.

He scared up a rabbit chewing sumac. He tasted a few drops of the sweet red maple juice that ran down the stem of the trunk where a rabbit nibbled off a twig.

Thoreau also clambered over great white pine masts where the woods had been laid waste, and remarked on the jewel-like brilliancy of the sawed ends thickly bedewed with crystal drops of turpentine.

Andromeda calyculata

Andromeda calyculata

He heard the tche tche tche tche tche of a robin from a dense birch wood. He saw the bluish bloom on thimble-berry vines and the horn-shaped buds of the skunk cabbage, green with a bluish bloom, ‘standing uninjured, ready to feel the influence of the sun, -- the most prepared for spring – to look at – of any plant.’ He wrote:

You are always surprised by the sight of the first spring bird or insect; they seem premature, and there is no such evidence of spring as themselves, so that they literally fetch the year about. It is thus when I hear the first robin or bluebird or, looking along the brooks, see the first waterbugs out circling. But you think, They have come, and Nature cannot recede.

It snowed the next day.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Lucio Malvestuto

    Lucio Malvestuto

    March 9, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    A very tranquel and interesting story. Ive always liked history

  2. Pingback: The Musketaquid Comes Out of the Cellar - New England Historical Society

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