Thoreau’s Winter Thoughts

Today’s post features thoughts from Henry David Thoreau, found in his slim volume of mini essays called “On Man & Nature,”  compiled by Arthur G. Volkman,1960.

In northeastern Oklahoma today, in my world, the sun is shining brightly. The last scrappy remains of snow from the winter blast on the 6th and 7th of December, is finally melting away. Now, all that remains is sand on the hilly roads and intersections, and a brown coating all over my car.

After the fact, we can remember the beauty of the snow fall, right in the place where we are. Where could it be more beautiful, or more simply enjoyed than in our own yards and streets? Forget the inconvenience and remember the beauty as you read Thoreau’s thoughts.

“Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor; even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants, which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveler. It was literally the wreck of jewels and the crash of gems … Such is beauty ever –neither here nor there, now nor then — neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one.”

“The thin snow now driving from the north and lodging on my coat consists of those beautiful star crystals, not cottony and chubby spokes, but thick and partly transparent crystals. They are about a tenth of an inch in diameter, perfect little wheels with six spokes without a tire, or rather with six perfect little leaflets, fern-like, with a distinct straight and slender midrib, raying from the center … How full of the creative genius is the air in which they are generated. I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.”

“We are rained and snowed on with gems. What a world we live in! Where are the jewelers’ shops? There is nothing handsomer than a snowflake and dewdrop. I may say that the maker of the world exhausts his skill with each snowflake and dewdrop he sends down. We think that the one mechanically coheres and that the other simply flows together and falls, but in truth they are the product of enthusiasm, the children of an ecstasy, finished with the artist’s utmost skill.”

Thoreau’s awareness of the dual nature of the natural world is so evident in these passages. Simplicity and complexity together, in the quiet beauty of a snowflake or a raindrop.

In these cold winter months, I promise to take time to enjoy the cold brisk air, and the moisture that waters our world. Will you?

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