A morning reverie with Henry

Early this morning I retire to the rocking chair on the front porch to sit in the sun. In my hand I carry a copy of Walden and open it to Thoreau’s chapter on “Spring.” His words seem apropos of the world in which I am steeped:

“At the approach of spring the red-squirrels got under my house, two at a time, directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing, and kept up the queerest chuckling and chirruping and vocal pirouetting and gurgling sounds that ever were heard; and when I stamped they only chirruped the louder, as if past all fear and respect in their mad pranks, defying humanity to stop them.…They were wholly deaf to my arguments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a strain of invective that was irresistible.”

At my feet the cat plays with a small twig, twisting and turning on the rug, then mewing to be let inside the house. I pay her no attention. Instead I listen to the red-bellied woodpecker clucking overhead in the ancient ash tree. A goldfinch sings his morning serenade from the treetops across the street. Somewhere in the distance a dove coos her mournful prayers. Crows and blue jays squabble in the neighbor’s pines. A chipping sparrow lets out a string of notes to rival a Mozart piano concerto:

“The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever! The faint silvery warblings heard over the partially bare and moist fields from the blue-bird, the song-sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell! What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations?”

Across the narrow valley thick dark green hemlocks and spruce stand in clusters among the airbrushed lemon-green canopies of birches and oaks and cinnamon-red crowns of the maples—all of this color laid out beneath cotton-white cumulus clouds drifting in the blue sky overhead.

“Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees, just putting out amidst the pine woods around the pond, imparted a brightness like sunshine to the landscape, especially in cloudy days, as if the sun were breaking through mists and shining faintly on the hill-sides here and there.”

I read Thoreau’s account of the merlin he glimpsed playing in the morning air on the 29th of April, 1846:

“Looking up, I observed a very slight and graceful hawk, like a night-hawk, alternately soaring like a ripple and tumbling a rod or two over and over, showing the underside of its wings, which gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like the pearly inside of a shell.…It was the most ethereal flight I had ever witnessed.…It appeared to have no companion in the universe—sporting there alone—and to need none but the morning and the ether with which it played.”

Cars pass up and down the street adjacent—drivers on their way to work, heedless of the morning’s offerings.

“In a pleasant spring morning all man’s sins are forgiven.”


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