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six inches thick; but by the next day evening, perhaps, after a warm
rain followed by fog, it would have wholly disappeared, all gone off
with the fog, spirited away. One year I went across the middle only
five days before it disappeared entirely. In 1845 Walden was first
completely open on the 1st of April; in ‘46, the 25th of March; in
‘47, the 8th of April; in ‘51, the 28th of March; in ‘52, the 18th of
April; in ‘53, the 23d of March; in ‘54, about the 7th of April.

Every incident connected with the breaking up of the rivers and
ponds and the settling of the weather is particularly interesting to us
who live in a climate of so great extremes. When the warmer days
come, they who dwell near the river hear the ice crack at night with a
startling whoop as loud as artillery, as if its icy fetters were rent from
end to end, and within a few days see it rapidly going out. So the
alligator comes out of the mud with quakings of the earth. One old
man, who has been a close observer of Nature, and seems as
thoroughly wise in regard to all her operations as if she had been put
upon the stocks when he was a boy, and he had helped to lay her
keel-who has come to his growth, and can hardly acquire more of
natural lore if he should live to the age of Methuselah-told meand I
was surprised to hear him express wonder at any of Nature’s
operations, for I thought that there were no secrets between them-
that one spring day he took his gun and boat, and thought that he
would have a little sport with the ducks. There was ice still on the
meadows, but it was all gone out of the river, and he dropped down
without obstruction from Sudbury, where he lived, to Fair Haven
Pond, which he found, unexpectedly, covered for the most part with
a firm field of ice. It was a warm day, and he was surprised to see so
great a body of ice remaining. Not seeing any ducks, he hid his boat
on the north or back side of an island in the pond, and then
concealed himself in the bushes on the south side, to await them. The
ice was melted for three or four rods from the shore, and there was a
smooth and warm sheet of water, with a muddy bottom, such as the
ducks love, within, and he thought it likely that some would be along
pretty soon. After he had lain still there about an hour he heard a low
and seemingly very distant sound, but singularly grand and
impressive, unlike anything he had ever heard, gradually swelling
and increasing as if it would have a universal and memorable ending,
a sullen rush and roar, which seemed to him all at once like the
sound of a vast body of fowl coming in to settle there, and, seizing
his gun, he started up in haste and excited; but he found, to his
surprise, that the whole body of the ice had started while he lay
there, and drifted in to the shore, and the sound he had heard was
made by its edge grating on the shore-at first gently nibbled and
crumbled off, but at length heaving up and scattering its wrecks
along the island to a considerable height before it came to a

At length the sun’s rays have attained the right angle, and warm
winds blow up mist and rain and melt the snowbanks, and the sun,
dispersing the mist, smiles on a checkered landscape of russet and
white smoking with incense, through which the traveller picks his
way from islet to islet, cheered by the music of a thousand tinkling
rills and rivulets whose veins are filled with the blood of winter
which they are bearing off.

Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms
which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing down the sides of a
deep cut on the railroad through which I passed on my way to the
village, a phenomenon not very common on so large a scale, though
the number of freshly exposed banks of the right material must have
been greatly multiplied since railroads were invented. The material
was sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich colors,
commonly mixed with a little clay. When the frost comes out in the
spring, and even in a thawing day in the winter, the sand begins to
flow down the slopes like lava, sometimes bursting out through the
snow and overflowing it where no sand was to be seen before.
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