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...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

August 1858

Aug. 5. [...] The kingbird, by his activity and lively note and his white breast, keeps the air sweet. He sits now on a dead willow twig, akin to the flecks of mackerel sky, or its reflection in the water, or the white clamshell, wrong side out, opened by a musquash, or the fine particles of white quartz that may be found in the muddy river's sand. He is here to give a voice to all these. [...]

Aug. 9. Edward Bartlett shows me this morning a nest which he found yesterday. It is saddled on the lowest horizontal branch of an apple tree in Abel Heywood's orchard, against a small twig, and answers to Nuttall's description of the goldfinch's nest, which it probably is. The eggs were five, pure white or with a faint bluish-green tinge, just begun to be developed. I did not see the bird.

It is but little you learn of a bird in this irregular way,--having its nest and eggs shown you. How much more suggestive the sight of the goldfinch going off on a jaunt over the hills, twittering to its plainer consort by its side! [...]

Aug. 14 [...] To speak from recollection, the birds which I have chanced to hear of late are (running over the whole list):--

The squealing notes of young hawks.

Occasionally a red-wing's tchuck.

The link of bobolinks.

The chickadee and phebe note of the chickadees, five or six together occasionally.

The fine note of the cherry-bird, pretty often.

The twitter of the kingbird, pretty often.

The wood pewee, with its young, peculiarly common and prominent.

Only the pee p of the robin.

The pine warbler, occasionally.

The bay-wing, pretty often.

The seringo, pretty often.

The song sparrow, often.

The field sparrow, often.

The goldfinch, a prevailing note, with variations into a fine song.

The ground-robin, once of late.

The flicker's cackle, once of late.

The nighthawk, as usual.

Aug. 29. [...] Ah! what a voice was that hawk's or eagle's of the 22d! Think of hearing, as you walk the earth, as usual in leaden shoes, a fine, shrill scream from time to time, which you would vainly endeavor to refer to its true source if you had not watched the bird in its upward flight. It comes from yonder black spot on the bosom of a cloud. I should not have suspected that sound to have issued from the bosom of a cloud if I had not seen the bird. What motive can an eagle have for screaming among the clouds, unobserved by terrestrial creatures? We walk invested by sound,--the cricket in the grass and the eagle in the clouds. And so it circled over, and I strained my eyes to follow it, though my ears heard it without effort.

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