Wild-looking grass

Wild-looking grass

One of the landscape changes of recent years is the steady return of wild-looking grass where previously there were endless, weedless swards of emerald green lawn.  The more varied it is, the more I wonder how many insects and small creatures live there relatively...
Silver-plated water

Silver-plated water

I have seen beaten-bronze and copper-coloured water, but never silver-plated. ‘The cool, placid, silver-plated water at even coolly awaits the frost.’ 16 Oct 1859 Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R....
Finger-cold evening

Finger-cold evening

A great way to convey a chill in the air cold enough to affect the extremities.  Also like the idea of improving an evening by pulling up turnips. ‘Another finger-cold evening, which I improve in pulling up turnips.’   21 Nov 1860 Source: Henry David...
Glaucous-green field

Glaucous-green field

I found myself wondering just what shade of green is glaucous, and learning that it is either ‘a dull greyish-green or blue’, or a ‘pale greyish or bluish’ and also refers to being covered in a powdery bloom as on grapes.  A fine alliterative...
Mastiff-like tenacity

Mastiff-like tenacity

Such jaw-gripping tenacity is used to describe the force that the ending ‘-cious’ adds to words, as in the word ‘tenacious’.  Thoreau observes and analyses language as incisively as he observes and analyses nature. ‘… the...
Pattern-working chaplain

Pattern-working chaplain

Thoreau isn’t a big fan of chaplains and other purveyors of religion and here he takes a swipe at three visiting ‘ultra-reformers’, one of whom he describes as ‘a sort of travelling pattern-working chaplain’, which I take to mean someone...
Sawyer-like strain

Sawyer-like strain

Having always associated ‘sawyer’ with Tom of the same name, it never occurred to me that, like many surnames, it is also a livelihood, in this case, that of sawing wood for a living.  Thoreau uses it to describe the sawing sound of the ovenbird, an...
Faint-croaking frogs

Faint-croaking frogs

Thoreau is notably patient in observing nature, able to stand still for half an hour or more, to let the frogs and other creatures overcome their fear or shyness and be overcome instead by curiosity.  Here, he ends up being observed in return by half a dozen...
Well-disciplined eye

Well-disciplined eye

John Stilgoe describes Thoreau thus in his preface to the journals, highlighting Thoreau’s well-disciplined eye and his awareness of the limitations of words in describing what such an eye could see. Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion...

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