Imago lacus

The picture above was taken by a dear friend, the American poet Debra Kang Dean (please do not use it without permission). I met Debra three years before, when I went to Walden to work with his late husband Brad, a great Thoreau scholar. Once we spent hours tracking this quotation: "Some men go fishing all their lives without ever realizing it's not fish they are after." We concluded that Thoreau never wrote it, but si non è vero...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

October 1860

Oct. 6. P. M.—Over hill to Woodis Park.[...]
The crow, methinks, is our only large bird that hovers and circles about in flocks in an irregular and straggling manner, filling the air over your head and sporting in it as if at home here. They often burst up above the woods where they were perching, like the black fragments of a powder-mill just exploded.
One crow lingers on a limb of the dead oak till I am within a dozen rods. There is strong and blustering northwest wind, and when it launches off to follow its comrades it is blown up and backward still nearer to me, and it is obliged to tack four or five times just like a vessel, a dozen rods or more each way, very deliberately, first to the right, then to the left, before it can get off; for as often as it tries to fly directly forward against the wind, it is blown upward and backward within gunshot, and it only advances directly forward at last by stooping very low within a few feet of the ground where the trees keep off the wind. Yet the wind is not remarkably strong.

Oct. 9. P. M.—Up Assabet.
See one crow chasing two marsh hawks over E. Hosmer's meadow. Occasionally a hawk dives at the crow, but the crow perseveres in pestering them. Can it now have anything to do with the hawk's habit of catching young birds? In like manner smaller birds pursue crows. The crow is at length joined by another.
This haste to kill a bird or quadruped and make a skeleton of it, which many young men and some old ones exhibit, reminds me of the fable of the man who killed the hen that laid golden eggs, and so got no more gold. It is a perfectly parallel case. Such is the knowledge which you may get from the anatomy as compared with the knowledge you get from the living creature. Every fowl lays golden eggs for him who can find them, or can detect alloy and base metal.

H. D. Thoreau

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