Jan 23. “The coldest day that I can remember recording, clear and bright, but very high wind, blowing the snow. Ink froze. Had to break the ice in my pail with a hammer. Thermometer at 6.45A .M ., -18°; at 10.30, -14° (Smith’s, -20° ; Wilds’, -7°, the last being in a more sheltered place); at 12.45, -9°; at 4 P . M., -5 1/2′; at 7.30 P.M., -8°. I may safely say that -5° has been the highest temperature today by our thermometer.
Walking this afternoon, I notice that the face inclines to stiffen, and the hands and feet get cold soon. On first coming out in very cold weather, I find that I breathe fast, though without walking faster or exerting myself any more than usual.
I asked M[inott] about the Cold Friday. He said, “It was plaguy cold; it stung like a wasp.” He remembers seeing them toss up water in a shoemaker’s shop, usually a very warm place, and when it struck the floor it was frozen and rattled like so many shot. Old John, Nutting used to say, “When it is cold it is a sign it’s going to be warm and when it’s warm it’s a sign it’s going to be cold.”
As I walk the railroad causeway I am, as the last two months, disturbed by the sound of my steps on the frozen ground. I wish to hear the silence of the night, for the silence is something positive and to be heard. I cannot walk with my ears covered. I must stand still and listen with open ears, far from the noises of the village, that the night may make its impression on me. A fertile and eloquent silence. Sometimes the silence is merely negative, an arid and barren waste in which I shudder, where no ambrosia grows. I must hear the whispering of a myriad voices, Silence alone is worthy to be heard. Silence is of various depth and fertility, like soil. Now it is a mere Sahara, where risen perish of hunger and thirst, now a fertile bottom, or prairie, of the West. As I leave the village, drawing nearer to the woods, I listen from time to time to hear the hounds of Silence baying the Moon,- to know if they are on the trade of any game. If there ‘s no Diana in the night, what is it worth? I hark the goddess Diana. The silence rings; it is musical and thrills me. A night in which the silence was audible. I hear the unspeakable.
As I came home through the village at 8.15 p.m., by a bright moonlight, the moon nearly full and not more than 18° from the zenith, the wind northwest, but not strong, and the air pretty cold, I saw the melon-rind arrangement of the clouds on a larger scale and more distinct than ever before. There were eight or ten courses of clouds, so broad that with equal intervals of blue sky they occupied the whole width of the heavens, broad white cirro-stratus in perfectly regular curves from west to east across the whole sky. The four middle ones, occupying the greater part of the visible cope, were particularly distinct. They were all as regularly arranged as the lines on a melon, and with much straighter sides, as if cut with a knife. I hear that it attracted the attention of those who were abroad at 7 p.m. and now, at 9 p.m., it is scarcely less remarkable. On one side of the heavens, north or south, the intervals of blue look almost black by contrast. There is now, at nine, a strong wind from the northwest. Why do these bars extend east and west? Is it the influence of the sun, which set so long ago? or of the rotation of the earth? The bars which I notice so often, morning and evening, are apparently connected with the sun at those periods.
Jan . 17 . Surveying for William O . Benjamin east part of Lincoln. Saw a red squirrel on the wall, it being thawing weather. Human beings with whom I have no sympathy are far stranger to me than inanimate matter, — rocks or earth. Looking on the last, I feel comparatively as if I were with my kindred.