Still very cold. The most splendid show of ice chandeliers, casters, hour-glasses that I ever saw or imagined about the piers of the bridges, surpassing any crystal, so large. Rather like the bases of columns,
— terraced pedestals, that is it,- the prototypes of the ornaments of the copings and capitals. Perfect and regular, sharp, cone-shaped drops hang from the first figure a few inches above the water. I should have described it then. It would have filled many pages. Scared up my flock of black ducks and counted forty together. See crows along the water’s edge. What do they eat Saw a small black duck with glass, — a dipper (?). Fair Haven still covered and frozen anew in part. Shores of meadow strewn with cranberries. The now silvery willow catkins (notwithstanding the severe cold) shine along the shore, over the cold water, and C. thinks some willow osiers decidedly more yellow.
How much more habitable a few birds make the fields! At the end of winter, when the fields and there is nothing to relieve the monotony of the withered vegetation, our life seems reduced to its lowest terms. But let a bluebird come and warble over them, and what a change!
Each new year is a surprise to us.We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence. How happens it that the associations it awakens are always pleasing, never saddening; reminiscences of our sanest hours? The voice of nature is always encouraging.
March began warm, and I admired the ripples made by the gusts on the dark-blue meadow flood, and the light-tawny color of the earth, and was on the alert for several days to hear the first birds. For a few days past it has been generally colder and rawer, and the ground has been whitened with snow two or three times, but it has all been windy.
A strong but warm southwesterly (?) wind, which has produced a remarkable haze. As I go along by Sleepy Hollow, this strong, warm wind, rustling the leaves on the hillsides, this blue haze, and the russet earth seen through it, remind me that a new season has come. There was the less thick, more remotely blue, haze of the 11th February, succeeded by a thaw, beginning on the 14th. Will not rain follow this much thicker haze ?
March 1. Here is our first spring morning accord- ing to the almanac. It is remarkable that the spring of the almanac and of nature should correspond so closely. The morning of the 26th was good winter, but there came a plentiful rain in the afternoon, and yesterday and today are quite springlike. This morning the air is still, and, though clear enough, a yellowish light is widely diffused throughout the east.
Of two men, one of whom knows nothing about a subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows that he knows nothing, and the other really knows something but thinks that he knows all, — what great advantage has the latter over the former ? which is the best to deal with ? I do not know that knowledge amounts to anything more definite than a novel and grand surprise, or a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we had called knowledge before; an indefinite sense of the grandeur and glory of the universe. It is the lighting up of the mist by the sun. But man cannot be said to know in any higher sense, [any more] than he can look serenely and with impunity in the face of the sun.
A culture which imports much muck from the meadows and deepens the soil, not that which trusts to heating manures and improved agricultural implements only.
Feb. 23. P.M. — Walk to Quinsigamond Pond, where was good skating, yesterday, but this very pleasant and warm day it is suddenly quite too soft. I was just saying to Blake that I should look for hard ice in the shade, or [on the] north side, of some wooded hill close to the shore, though skating was out of the question elsewhere, when, looking up, I saw a gentleman and lady very gracefully gyrating and, as it were, courtesying to each other in a small bay under such a hill on the opposite shore of the pond. Intervening bushes and shore concealed the ice, so that their swift and graceful motions, their bodies inclined at various angles as they gyrated forward and backward about a small space, looking as if they would hit each other, reminded me of the circling of two winged insects in the air, or hawks receding and approaching.